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VideoLAN, developer of VLC, sends legal notice to Indian ministries regarding ban • CableFree TV

VideoLAN, the developer and operator of the popular VLC media player, has filed a legal notice with India’s IT and Telecommunication Ministries, alleging that the Indian authorities failed to notify the software developer and provide him with an opportunity to explain.

Indian carriers block VideoLAN website listing download links for VLC, since February of this year, VideoLan president and lead developer Jean-Baptiste Kempf told TechCrunch in an earlier interview. India is one of the biggest markets for VLC.

“Most major ISPs [internet service providers] blocking the site through various methods,” he said of blocking in India. Telecom operators began blocking the VideoLan website on February 13 this year, when it saw an 80% drop in traffic from the South Asian market, he said.

Now VideoLAN, backed by local advocacy group Internet Freedom Foundation, is using legal means to get answers and redress. He requested a copy of the ruling to ban the VideoLAN website in India and the opportunity to defend the case in a virtual hearing.

AT notificationVideoLAN contends that the way Indian ministries enforce the ban on the website violates their own local laws. The letter added:

Pursuant to Rule 8 of the Information Technology Rules (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking Access to Information to the Public) 2009 (the “Blocking Rules”) and Supreme Court judgment in Shreya Singhal v. Union of India (2015) 5 SCC 1, government officials responsible for issuing a blocking order must: (i) use reasonable efforts to identify the sender or intermediary posting the information to be blocked, (ii) notify such person, (iii) hold such person for a hearing with the appropriate authority, and (iv) provide a copy of the reasoned blocking order to the person concerned prior to the hearing. Despite this, the URL that allows users to download VLC has been blocked by DoT without any prior notice or ability to listen on VideoLAN.

The Indian carriers have not explained why they blocked the VideoLan website, but some speculate that it may have been due to a misinterpretation of a security warning made earlier this year.

In April this year, security firm Symantec reported that the Cicada hacker group, which has ties to the Chinese government, used VLC Media Player, as well as several other popular applications, to gain remote access to victims’ computers. Kempf said no Indian government agency has contacted him or his firm, and the blockage is likely the result of a misunderstanding of China’s security issue.

But by blocking the website, India is pushing its citizens towards “shady websites running a hacked version of VLC”. So with this ban, they endanger their own citizens,” Kempf said earlier.

In the legal notice, VideoLAN warns that failure to comply with its demand will force the open source firm to initiate legal action. “Any such proceedings, if initiated, shall be at your sole risk, expense, and in violation of your own policies,” the notice added.

By Peter Kavinsky

Peter Kavinsky is the Executive Editor at cablefreetv.org