I&B ministry appoints officers to curb online piracy of movies | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

I&B ministry appoints officers to curb online piracy of movies

Nov 04, 2023 01:35 AM IST

Twelve nodal officers have been appointed to receive complaints, and the process is governed by the Cinematograph Act

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has designated nodal officers who can directly instruct intermediaries such as YouTube and Facebook to take down copyright infringing content. These takedown orders will be limited to content that is certified by the Central Board of Film Certification, that is, movies in their entirety. The move is aimed at curbing piracy which costs the Indian film industry 20,000 crore annually, according to MIB.

Union minister for information and broadcasting Anurag Thakur. (PTI Photo)
Union minister for information and broadcasting Anurag Thakur. (PTI Photo)

This means nodal officers can now order a YouTube channel to take down an infringing version of Jawan but not Toothpari since the latter is a streaming-only show. And CBFC certifies songs as only a part of the movie, not independent of it. Thus, showing the video of the Kal Ho Na Ho song itself is not under CBFC’s domain but showing it as a part of the movie is.

Twelve nodal officers have been appointed by MIB to receive the complaints. These are Prithul Kumar, joint secretary (films) at MIB, Armstrong Pame, director (films)/deputy secretary (films), Ravinder Bhakar, the CEO of CBFC, and regional officers of CBFC from Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai, Cuttack, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Thiruvananthapuram.

This process has been instituted under Section 7(1B)(ii) of the Cinematograph Act, 1952, which allows the “appropriate Government or its agencies” to take suitable action against an intermediary. Under the Cinematograph Act, the suitable agency is MIB. This section was notified through amendments in August 2023. It is enabled by Section 79 of the Information Technology Act which allows the “appropriate Government or its agency” to notify the intermediary that its services are being used to commit an unlawful act.

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This procedure allows the nodal officers to direct any intermediary, not just social media intermediaries, to take down copyright infringing content. A website that hosts pirated movies may or may not be an intermediary, depending on whether it has control over the content it publishes.

Usually, in such cases, getting to the owner of the website is difficult, if not possible. The IT Ministry, in such instances, issues orders to the Department of Telecommunications to instruct the telecom service providers to block the websites. The MIB-appointed nodal officers will also do the same, Apurva Chandra, the I&B secretary, told HT.

“There is no room for suo moto cognizance,” Chandra said. A complaint must be made --either by the copyright owner or by a member of the public. “In case the complaint is made by a copyright owner, we do not need much of an inquiry,” he added.

When the copyright holder complains, the order could be issued as early as the day of the receipt of the complaint or the next day, Chandra said. For complaints from the public, the nodal officer will have to conduct an inquiry, send a notice and await a response. That will be a longer process. “Intermediaries are expected to comply within 48 hours of the receipt of the order but practically, it happens much faster,” he said.

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Nodal officers cannot act against the use of movie snippets in reviews, satires, etc. in line with the fair use exemption under the Copyright Act. Thus, nodal officers will adjudicate the content to some extent, Chandra said. He admitted that while streaming platforms such as Netflix and Disney+Hotstar are also affected by online piracy, they cannot be covered because the ministry is “bound by the constraints and limits of the Cinematograph Act.”

Content exclusive to streaming platforms will continue to be covered by the Copyright Act, Anurag Thakur, the minister for information and broadcasting, told HT. “Such content [on streaming platforms| is not covered by the Cinematograph Act since it is not publicly exhibited in theatres,” he added.

“Intermediaries are already obligated under the Copyright Act, 1957 to take down pirated content upon being notified. This mechanism allows copyright owners and public to go to the nodal officer instead of going to the courts for CBFC-certified films,” Sneha Jain, partner at Saikrishna & Associates, said. Is it a good move then? “I think so. It will help those movie makers who do not have the wherewithal to keep going to court every time,” she said.

This process is completely independent from the IT Ministry’s Section 69A blocking process under the IT Act or the MIB’s blocking process under Part 3 of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code). The former deals with egregious content on intermediaries that has national security implications while latter is for similar content published by publishers of news and current affairs, and streaming services.

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