VideoLAN, the non-profit company that owns the popular, free and an open- source VLC Media Player, has sent a court challenge to the Department of Telecom (DoT) and Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) bodies over the silent blocking of its platform in March this year.
In a legal notice dated September 30 and sent from the organisation’s president and lead VLC developer of VideoLan-Jean-Baptiste Kempf, he has claimed that the URL to access the media player has been blocked since March without any prior notice to him or any other person at VideoLAN. The notice is addressed to K Rajaraman, chairman DCC & Secretary (T), Department of Telecommunications, Ministry of Communication.
Calling the ban, a “shock and dismay” for the company, Jean writes that despite wide media coverage and social media uproar, the government failed to give reasons for the blocking. This was followed by several RTI applications filed by public and civil society members with the DoT which were transferred to the MeltY. Apparently, MeltY responded to these RTI Applications stating that no information was available to them.
“Your requested URL has been blocked as per directions received from the Department of Telecommunications, Government of India,” read the URL when accessed on August 30, 2022.
He further calls this an irony as the government itself endorses VLC as part of its Digital India initiative and expressed intentions to use the software for government apps.
“Almost six months have passed since the first reporting of the unavailability of videolan.org, and the reasons for blocking the URL have not been communicated to us. We have neither received any notice of hearing nor a copy of the reasoned blocking order,” reads the legal notice.
This is in contradiction to Rule 8 of the 2009 IT Blocking Rules and a Supreme Court ruling that requires any government officer responsible for issuing a blocking order must communicate the reasons for such a ban and at the same time also provide a copy of a reasoned blocking order to the person concerned prior to the hearing.
VideoLAN has now asked for a copy of the reasoned blocking order along with a chance to defend its case through a virtual hearing. Failing to comply will compel the company to initiate legal proceedings against the government.