Streamers playing PUBG Mobile KR in India can be penalized: MeitY

PUBG Mobile was amongst the most popular mobile games in India. Both its main version and its Lite version had millions of downloads in the country. But on September 2, the Indian government banned the game under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act. It said that the app has been engaging in activities prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity, defence and security of India.

Since then many people have been waiting for the game to make a comeback, which does not seem far away. But many have been breaking the law and playing the Korean or global versions of the game, using a virtual private network (VPN) service. Though many of them will not be caught, as a VPN service masks your IP and masks the incoming data packets with an encryption layer. However, many streamers tournament organizers and esports organizations can face penalties as they have been putting out content for the banned game.

Adeeb Sayeed a blogger recently sent out letters of warnings to such content creators trying to warn them of the consequences they may face from the authorities for the same. To which, the creators asked for a “text from the government, explicitly saying that the PUBG Mobile KR (Korean) version of the game is banned.” They said that the government has only banned the PUBG Mobile Nordic Map: LIVIK and PUBG Mobile Lite versions in the country.

What they do not seem to understand is that, PUBG Mobile KR has cross-play functionality, which means that it accesses the PUBG Mobile Global server, which is blocked by the government. And using a VPN service to bypass the ban and access any such content is against the law.

Due to this, an RTI was filed by Prasoon Shekhar, a law student inquiring about the ‘provision of law if somebody disobeys the ban imposed on Chinese apps like CamScanner, PUBG Mobile and more.’  To this MeitY replied by stating “MeitY does not ban any App. However, blocking of specified Apps was done under the provisions of Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 and its Rules namely Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking Access of Information by the Public) Rules, 2009. Section 69A of the Act provides for a penalty to intermediaries for non-compliance of the blocking order. However, no penalty is prescribed for individual users of such Apps.”

The reply simply means that if an individual user is accessing the application in a private environment they will not be prosecuted but are still disobeying the imposed ban. Whereas, people and groups who are publicising the content are disobeying the imposed ban, and are motivating others to do the same, due to which they can be prosecuted and penalized.

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