The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting recently introduced an amendment in the Cinematograph (Amendment) bill, 2021. The amendment was introduced to tackle the menace of film piracy. This bill was introduced after the Cinematograph (Amendment) Act, 2019 which faced many backlash from the industry experts. The controversy arises in the amendment of the bill in the year 2019 because there was a provision in it that provides revisionary powers to the Central government. Which says that even if the film is passed by the CBFC (Censor Board) even then the government can redirect the chairman of CBFC to reexamine it. Further there were several other provisions which were not compatible with the existing anti piracy provisions under the Copyright Act, 1957. In this blog we will discuss the incongruency that exists between the laws and highlight the provisions which could undermine the fundamental rights.
Why was the Amendment Proposed?
In the past The Central Board of Film Certification has come down very harshly in the release of the fim like “Haider”(2014), Udta Punjab (2016), Lipstick under my Burkha (2017) etc. these films tries to address sexuality, feminism, revolution etc. which CBFC considered too bold to be released in public and therefore the film was released after heavy cuts in the film. The question arises here that what is the need for amendment if the menace is decade long? Now the answer to this question lies in the recent controversy which arises after the release of Amazon Prime’s web series “Tandav” which was met with severe public outrage. The series was targeted and blamed for “misrepresenting” Hindu gods and hurting the religious sentiments which further led to a plethora of FIRs being filed. The present amended bill could be seen as a direct result of this controversy.
The proposed Amendment: Analysing the Effects
In the previous amendment of 2019, section 7 (4) of the act was overriding the Copyright Act. The section penalized recording a film or sound recording being played or displayed, without the permission of the copyright owner, in the ‘exhibition facility’. The same provision seems to have been replaced by Section 6AA, which even though has different wordings, the effect more or less remains the same. It states:
“6AA. Notwithstanding any law for the time being in force, no person shall, without the written authorization of the author, be permitted to use any audio/visual recording device in a place to knowingly make or transmit or attempt to make or transmit or abet the making or transmission of a copy of a film or a part thereof.
Explanation.- For the purposes of this subsection, the expression “author” shall have the same meaning as assigned to it in clause (d) of section 2 of the Copyright Act, 1957.”
The amendment made compulsory to take authorization from the copyright owner mandatory posing another set of significant challenges. The Copyright Act empowers the producer of the film to be the author of copyright. However he may further delegate or assign his rights that would assign the rights to the third party. In such a case whoever wants to record the film has to take permission from the said author or with the stakeholders failing which could land him in legal trouble.
Issues with Amendment Act; Rational Nexus and Punishments
Section 7 (1A) of the act lays down the punishment and penalties in contravention of section 6AA which ranges from 3 months to 3 years of imprisonment and fine of Rs. 3 lakh rupees which may extend to 5% of the audited gross production cost of the film.the provision was not preventing first time offenders from being subjected to the same punishment as repeated offenders. Punishing first time offenders with the same punishment and penalty with the repeated offenders is ethically and morally wrong. Section 63 of the copyright Act talks about the crime of Piracy. The punishment under section 63 is imprisonment ranging from 6 months to 3 years and fine upto Rs. 50,000/- to 2 Lakhs. However, the amendment added severity to the punishments which were against the interstate of public.
The issues with the amended bill were endless, and the punishment was even extended with the severity of the amendment introduced. In its present state, the bill could incorporate amendments that shall add to the distress of people. Thus, the need of the hour is to not rely solely on stringent ways of dealing with the issue of piracy but rather developing and implementing systematically reformed provisions. The change needs to be brought in order to ensure that the menace of film piracy is dealt with without encroaching on the borders of freedoms enshrined by the constitution