IPR Newsletter – The Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill : Sept 2023
The Indian film industry is one of the largest and globalized industries in the world producing more than 3,000 films annually in more than 40 languages. The medium of cinema, the tools, and the technology associated with it have undergone many crucial changes over this period of time. The issue of piracy has also grown, with the rise of the internet and social media.
The Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2023 was introduced in the Rajya Sabha by Information Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur on July 20th, 2023. The Bill aims to impose strict penalties on individuals involved in unauthorized audio-visual recording and distribution of copyrighted content. The initial version of the Bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha in February 2019. In its present form, the Bill seeks to amend the Cinematograph Act, 1952 which empowers the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) to make cuts in films and clear them for exhibition in cinemas. This is indeed a historic Bill Passed by Parliament amending the Cinematograph Act After nearly 40 Years.
“The proposed amendments would make the certification process more effective, in tune with the present times, and comprehensively curb the menace of film piracy, and thus help in faster growth of the film industry and boost job creation in the sector,” reads the text of the Bill.
Censorship has been a highly debated topic for a long time, ever since the inception of visual acts. Thus, it has been commonly defined as an act or a mechanism that establishes a system of restriction over public expression of ideas, opinions, and conceptions. The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) executes this objective of censorship. Let us look at an overview of the Cinematograph Act 1952 before understanding the proposed amendments.
What is the Cinematograph Act, 1952?
The Cinematograph Act of 1952 lays down certain guidelines that control the public expression of ideas, opinions, and imagination via films by filmmakers. Cinema has opened new possibilities and debatable themes in the social and political arenas. With rapid technological advancement, it is easy to abuse the wonders of technology and portray themes that could be problematic to social norms. The first Cinematograph bill was proposed in 1917 with the purpose of protecting public morality from the exhibition of objectionable films, in British India.
After India’s independence in 1947, the new government felt the need to retain film censorship. However, a few amendments were made to the Cinematograph Act 1918 in 1949. Two categories of film certification were created, an ‘A’ certificate for restricting viewership to adults and a ‘U’ certificate for an unrestricted exhibition. The Central Board of Film Censors was renamed into the Central Board of Film Certification on June 1, 1983. This board implements and follows the provisions of the Cinematograph Act, 1952. The chairperson and other members are appointed by the Central Government. The Board certifies films without which they are not eligible for public exhibition.
Let us understand the Amendments that are proposed in the bill to be proposed by the act.
Key Takeaways from the Amendments made:
#1: Anti-Piracy Provision
The bill aims to curb the piracy of films by imposing strict penalties on individuals involved in unauthorized audio-visual recording and distribution of copyrighted content. The provisions include:
Jail Term: Imprisonment from 3 months to 3 years.
Fine: From Rs. 3 lakhs to 5% of the audited gross production cost.
This provision acts as a punitive measure to deter unauthorized recording and distribution of pirated material. The higher the fine imposed the lesser the chances could be for individuals engaging in such illegal activities.
#2: Addition of new sections: 6AA and 6AB
Section 6AA: Prohibits recording, helping a person record, or transmitting an infringing copy of a film at a licensed place for exhibition without the owner’s authorization.
Section 6AB: Deals with unauthorized exhibition of films, and expands the scope of law from censorship to copyright. It seeks to prohibit the public exhibition of an infringing copy of the film for profit at a location not licensed to exhibit films, or in a manner that infringes upon the Copyright Act, 1957.
#3: Expansion of Copyright Coverage
It aims to extend the coverage of the Cinematograph Act, 1952, which was primarily focused on censorship, to now encompass copyright protection.
This provision aligns with the changing atmosphere and landscape of film distribution and aims to safeguard the intellectual property rights of filmmakers and content creators.
#4: Age Ratings
The amendment bill introduces a new age rating system for films that require adult supervision. The current U/A rating, which covers a broader age range, will be split into three distinct categories:
U/A 7+: Films suitable for children above the age of 7 with parental guidance.
U/A 13+: Films suitable for children above the age of 13 with parental guidance.
U/A 16+: Films suitable for children above the age of 16 with parental guidance.
This new classification system aligns with the graded-age classifications implemented for streaming platforms under the IT Rules, 2021, and Shyam Benegal Committee recommendations (2017).
Online curated content, commonly known as OTT content, also needs to adhere to a similar age-based rating for content under the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021.
#5: Government’s Limited Powers over CBFC to ensure autonomy
It emphasizes the autonomy of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC). The Government may no longer have revisional powers over the CBFC’s decisions, based on the Supreme Court’s judgment in the case of K.M. Shankarappa vs Union of India (2000) which states that the Centre cannot exercise revisional powers on films already certified by the CBFC.
#6: Validity of film certificates
A certificate given by the CBFC is currently valid for 10 years under sub-section 3 of Section 5A of the Cinematograph Act, 1952. The Bill provides that a certificate will be perpetually valid throughout India.
This helps the certificate of validity to be perpetual and grants protection to films from being illegally distributed once validity is over. It reduces the tedious process for filmmakers and industry professionals to keep applying for fresh certificates.
#7: Films on TV and OTT
Films certified for adult consumption by the CBFC are prohibited on television. A film that is “not suitable for unrestricted public exhibition” is not permitted to be showcased on cable services, as per the program code of the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995.
However, as per provisions of the Amendment Bill, the CBFC will be empowered to sanction ‘separate certificates’ to a film for exhibition on television or ‘such other media’; it refrains from mentioning if this will include OTT platforms.
The Board may, for this purpose, sanction the film with a separate certificate, after directing the applicant to carry out modifications to the film as it may think fit – the Bill reads. Currently, OTT platforms have self-regulatory powers which come under the purview of the Code of Ethics under the IT Act and more clarity is awaited on the matter with regard to OTT platforms.
The changes proposed to be implemented will certainly bring about changes in the issue of piracy in the film industry. The enforcement needs to be carried out strictly and fines need to be imposed by the officials. Stricter rules against piracy will surely help in curbing the menace and could eliminate it in the long run. It will save the producers from incurring losses. However, its effectiveness depends on how the state police and state government implement the set punishments.