VideoLAN, the creator of the free video player and editing utility, VLC media player, has hit two Indian ministries with legal notices in response to the country’s recent ban on its software. The company asserts that the ban was illegal and is in contravention of prior decisions made by the Supreme Court of India.
As VideoLAN asserted in a recent press release: ‘This was done without any prior notice, or affording VideoLAN an opportunity of hearing, which is contrary to the 2009 Blocking Rules and the law laid down by the Supreme Court in Shreya Singhal v Union of India.’ VideoLAN is not on its own, however. India’s Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) has joined forces with VideoLAN to try and get to the root of the block and appeal the ban.
India’s Department of Telecommunications, the entity that instated the ban in the first place, has remained silent on the matter. In June 2022, the Internet Freedom Foundation submitted an application for the Right to Information. The application was issued to the DoT, which then pushed it through to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY). Despite being the best equipped to level a meaningful response in the matter, MeitY issued the standard ‘No information is available’ retort.
Even though India has yet to respond to VideoLAN’s correspondences, some people suspect that the reason behind the ban may have to do with Cicada. Cicada is a Chinese hacking group with links to the State. Cicada is mentioned in a Symantec report that details the group’s use of VideoLAN IP, particularly the VLC media player, as a means of delivering remote control malware to unsuspecting devices across Asia, Europe, and North America. The report describes evidence of an ‘advanced persistent threat group’ that targets legal, religious, governmental, and civilian organizations in these territories.
Even though VideoLAN’s recent actions don’t guarantee that the company will take legal action, there is every chance that the situation could end up there in any case. Should India not be forthcoming with its cooperation in this matter, VideoLAN has warned that it ‘will be entitled and compelled to initiate legal proceedings against you for failing to protect our rights.’
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