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Netflix, a hub of web-series and shows have drawn the admiration of Indian audience, and the ire of the Indian government. The height of distance the government possesses about this western giant of shows that more and more “morally correct” lawmakers are coming forward to stomp it with a legal boot. However, none of these cases are as ridiculous as the recent case filed against Netflix by an South Korean ISP.

Their reason for filing the case – The site has too much traffic for the ISP to handle.

The news comes from Seoul, South Korea, stating that the South Korean Internet Service Provider- SK Broadband – has sued digital TV goliath because of the increased traffic and resultant maintenance work it has caused because of the recently released South Korean survival Drama series – Squid Game.

What is the reason behind this case?

the South Korean ISP claims that Netflix is currently the second largest data traffic generator in South Korea – right behind YouTube. However, as per the country’s laws, which we are somewhat confused about, the two media goliaths are the only ones who don’t pay the required network usage charges.

“Content providers  Amazon, Apple and Facebook – all pay the network usage charges, but Netflix and Google doesn’t.” – said SK, the “ailing” service provider who is now seeking compensation of the extra weight it has to pull to ensure that people are able to get high-quality streaming at all times.

What does Netflix has to say to that?

Netflix is not without clean legal hands in this arena either. Last year, it filed its own lawsuit against SK on whether it has any obligation to pay any network usage charges.  “Our duty is just to create content and make it accessible” – retorted Netflix, claiming that it’s the contractual obligation of the ISP to the subscribers to provide them with the adequate internet connectivity that the subscribers need to access the internet.

Moreover, Netflix said that it is responsible for creating  16,000 new jobs of South Korea from the 770 billion won in investments it has done within the South Korean internetainment sector.

Regardless of how ethically we look at it, it seems that technical Netflix is in the right in this. However, when we analyzed the news deeper, it seems like the courts are standing behind SK in this case.

Providing a reasonable service

The Seoul Central District Court is standing right behind SK for this particular case, stating that it’s “reasonable” for Netflix to provide SK with some form of recompense as a internet is a service provided at a cost.

Our Analysis of this case – Can such a thing be implemented in India

As a content provider, a website has no obligations to pay the network usage fee to an ISP. Yes, while the increased traffic can cause an ISP to investment more into infrastructure, the website responsible for the rise of traffic is not to blame.

It’s the subscribers who are accessing these websites that hold all the cards here. Like Netflix said, an ISP has an obligation to provide better services to the internet subscriber, and not hope for reward from the website that has been generating the traffic.

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However, when gleaned from an ethical context,  points can be made for and against such a case.

Cases when it’s almost justified to sue high traffic generating websites

  1. Cost of service: Like Seoul’s District Court puts it, an ISP does provide a service at a cost that enables a website to be found and accessed by the user. It’s a service that only the customer, but the website is also enjoying.
  2. High traffic: In cases of high traffic, it’s the ISP that has to bear the cost of additional adaptive maintenance of the hardware.
  3. Discriminative attitude of the website: If a particular website has discriminately barred a particular ISP from accessing it, then, in certain circumstances, the ISP can be at a liberty to file a case.

Cases when it’s never justified for an ISPs to sue high traffic generating websites

  1. The service providers are the primary beneficiaries: Internet Service Providers are in an contractual agreement to serve the subscribers with  internet access. The fee they charge the subscribers on data and speed basis is the primary source of their revenue. Websites have no obligations towards them. They are merely making it accessible.
  2. It can have a detrimental impact on the entrepreneurs: Most of the entrepreneurs in India are using internet platform to springboard their business venture upwards. If their website generated a lot of traffic and leads, then it’s a testament to their success. In such instances, an ISP attempt to file a case against such a website can be detrimental to the socio-economic growth of the country.

When you combine these cases, you ‘d know that file the points contending ISP’s for such cases are less, they have a lot more impact.

So, no! it’s not possible for an Indian ISP to file a case against a website. Because it’s not. Unless something truly invasive has been done and the website has tried to bypass the safety protocols of an ISP to illegally allows the subscribers to access it despite the ruling of Indian government, there is no way an ISP can file a case against a website for generating too much traffic.   

Conclusion

Internet Service Providers have now long been the instrument’s of India’s digital growth. However, that won’t give them the right to extract more from a website – be it Netflix – just because the traffic it generates tends to be high.

Thankfully, no such provisions exist in India, unlike South Korea, where content companies need to pay network usage charges for the same. Whether or not such things might come to pass in future – who knows?

But we do know this, if such a move ever takes place in India, it will set a dangerous precedent that would eventually end up harming the digital economy our country has been trying to foster for so long.

By Gaurav Mahajan

Soul Mahajan is a gamer, a writer, and a fitness Junkie. As someone who recently got into fitness and obsessed with it, he harbors a lot of interest in the supplement industry. When he is not knee-deep in research about supplements so that he knows that he is buying the supplements that are not duplicates, he is gaming or writing about it.

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