Lok Sabha passes Bill to curb film piracy, revamp age-based certification

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NEW DELHI: The Lok Sabha on Monday passed a Bill to curb the menace of film piracy, revamp age-based certification given by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) as well as bring in uniformity in the categorisation of films and content across platforms.

The Cinematograph (Amendment ) Bill 2023 was passed in the Lok Sabha with a voice vote despite protests by the members of the Opposition parties over the ongoing Manipur ethnic violence. The Bill was passed by the Rajya Sabha on July 27.

Speaking on the Bill, Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting Anurag Thakur said “We (the government) will do the work of stopping piracy through this Bill”.

“Piracy is like cancer and we are trying to uproot it through this Bill,” Thakur said in support of the Bill, which has provisions to curb transmission of pirated film content on the internet as well as to classify films on the basis of age group, instead of the current practice of ‘U’, ‘A’, and ‘UA’.

“U” is for unrestricted public exhibition and “A” is restricted to adult audiences, while “UA” is for unrestricted public exhibition subject to parental guidance for children below the age of 12 and “S” for special category audiences such as doctors and scientists.

The Bill seeks amendment to the Cinematograph Act, 1952. The amendments will address the issue of unauthorised recording and exhibition of films. The draft Act constitutes the Board of Film Certification for certifying films for exhibition. Such certifications may be subject to modifications and deletions. The Board may also refuse the exhibition of films.

The Bill adds certain additional certificate categories based on age. Under the Act, the film may be certified for exhibition without restriction (‘U’); without restriction, but subject to guidance of parents or guardians for children below 12 years of age (‘UA’); only to adults (‘A’); or only to members of any profession or class of persons (‘S’).

The Bill substitutes the UA category with the following three categories to also indicate age-appropriateness UA 7+, UA 13+, or UA 16+.  The age endorsement within the UA category by the Board will inform guidance of parents or guardians, and will not be enforceable by any other persons other than parents or guardians.

Films with an ‘A’ or ‘S’ certificate will require a separate certificate for exhibition on television, or any other media prescribed by the central government. The Board may direct the applicant to carry appropriate deletions or modifications for the separate certificate.

The Bill prohibits carrying out or abetting the unauthorised recording and unauthorised exhibition of films.  Attempting an unauthorised recording will also be an offence.

An unauthorised recording means making or transmitting an infringing copy of a film at a licensed place for film exhibition without the owner’s authorisation.  An unauthorised exhibition means 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 law.

Certain exemptions under the Copyright Act, 1957 will also apply to the above offences.  The 1957 Act allows limited use of copyrighted content without owner’s authorisation in specified cases such as private or personal use, reporting of current affairs, or review or critique of that work.

The offences will be punishable with imprisonment between three months and three years, and a fine between Rs 3 lakh and 5 per cent of the audited gross production cost.

Under the Act, the certificate issued by the Board is valid for 10 years. The Bill provides that the certificates will be perpetually valid.

The Act empowers the central government to examine and make orders in relation to films that have been certified or are pending certification. The Board is required to dispose matters in conformance to the order. (ANI)

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