New India Law Criminalizes Online Adult Content

Dec 29, 2008 10:00 AM PST
NEW DELHI — A new law in India makes browsing or downloading adult pictures or films a crime punishable by five years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000 on first offense, going up to seven years on a second offense.

Raid: The Information Technology (Amendment) Bill was passed without debate by parliament last week. It treats providers of adult material and recipients in the same manner and gives wide powers to authorities, including giving inspectors the right to raid and arrest an accused without a warrant.

Websites that automatically open with adult images that remain on a computer's hard drive would be sufficient reason for an inspector to arrest and prosecute the user.

Another section of the bill provides for any government agency to interrupt, monitor or decrypt any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer.

One section of the bill is titled "punishment for publishing or transmitting of material depicting children in sexually explicit act, etc. in electronic form." If any suspect images are found on a computer, the owner is required to establish that those depicted are not children to avoid conviction.

Introducing any "contaminant" in a computer or network is outlawed under the category of "cyber terrorism" in the bill and could lead to life imprisonment, since the bill says "such conduct causes or is likely to cause death or injuries to persons or damages to or destruction of property." The bill does not explain how a computer crime could cause death or injuries.

"Cyber terrorism" also includes other acts of "terrorism" committed electronically including threatening the unity, integrity, security or sovereignty of India, to strike terror on the people or to access computer sources that are restricted for reasons of security of the state or foreign relations.

The bill also provides for punishment with a jail term of up to three years and a fine for sending any information — that is grossly offensive, has menacing character or is known to be false — for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred or ill will, or any electronic mail or message meant to cause annoyance or inconvenience, or to deceive or mislead the addressee or recipient.

Identity theft — to misuse a person's electronic signature, password or any other unique identification feature or impersonation in electronic activity — are punishable with a three-year imprisonment and a fine of up to $2,500.

Thefts of computer source codes and programs also are outlawed in the bill.

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