New nodal officers can block any site, app hosting pirated film content

The officers, appointed by the I&B Ministry, are empowered to take direct action for the first time by the amended Cinematograph Act, which also imposes higher fines and prison terms on those involved in piracy

Updated - November 03, 2023 04:51 pm IST

Published - November 03, 2023 01:57 pm IST

Image used for representational purpose only.

Image used for representational purpose only. | Photo Credit: R. Ravindran

In a bid to curb film piracy, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry has appointed nodal officers authorised to direct the blocking or taking down of any website, app or weblink carrying pirated film content.

The nodal officers are from the Ministry and the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC). The action has been taken under the recently amended Cinematograph Act.

Also read: Explained | The Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill’s proposal to check piracy of films, revamp age-based certification 

“The content creator spends a lot of time and energy making good content; people who are involved in the piracy take away that content and exhibit it in the halls and on online platforms... The annual loss to the industry is about ₹20,000 crore to ₹25,000 crore,” Union I&B Minister Anurag Thakur said on Friday.

Direct action

The MInister noted that the government has strengthened the fight against piracy by passing the Cinematograph Amendment Bill, 2023, in Parliament.

“Today, we have appointed nodal officers in the Ministry and in the CBFC Mumbai office and regional offices... The government has done away with the need to renew film licences every 10 years and made them last a lifetime. If we look at the piracy issue, now they could be fined from ₹3 lakh to 5% of the gross audited value of production,” he said.

Till now, there was no institutional mechanism to directly take action against pirated film content, except for legal proceedings under the Copyright Act and the Indian Penal Code, according to a Ministry statement. “With the proliferation of the internet and almost everyone interested in watching filmic content for free, there has been a boom in piracy. The above action would allow instant action by the Ministry,” it said.

Stricter punishment

The Act was amended after four decades to incorporate provisions against film piracy, including digital piracy, after the last significant amendments were made in 1984. The changes include strict punishment of a minimum three-month imprisonment and a fine of ₹3 lakh, which can be extended up to three years imprisonment and a fine up to 5% of the audited gross production cost.

An original copyright holder or any person authorised by them can apply to the nodal officer to get the pirated content taken down. “If a complaint is raised by a person who does not hold the copyright or is not authorised by the copyright holder, the nodal officer can hold hearings on a case-by-case basis to decide the genuineness of the complaint before issuing the directions,” the Ministry said.

After receiving directions from the nodal officer under the law, a digital platform must remove such internet links hosting pirated content within 48 hours.

Empowering amendments

The Cinematograph (Amendment) Act, 2023, passed by the Parliament in the Monsoon Session, addressed issues related to film certification, including the issue of unauthorised recording and exhibition of films, and film piracy by transmission of unauthorised copies on the internet. These amendments are aligned with other existing laws such as the Copyright Act and the Information Technology Act.

The newly inserted Section 6AB of the Cinematograph Act provides that “no person shall use or abet the use of an infringing copy of any film to exhibit to the public for profit at a place of exhibition which has not been licensed under the Act or the rules made thereunder; or in a manner that amounts to the infringement of copyright under the provisions of the Copyright Act, or any other extant law”.

Section 7(1B)(ii) provides that the government may take “suitable action for disabling access to, or removing, infringing contents made available through any digital platform”.

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