In a significant move to protect the Indian film industry from piracy, Union Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Anurag Thakur, presented the Cinematograph Amendment Bill 2023 in Rajya Sabha. The bill, prompted by a report from Ernest and Young revealing a staggering loss of approximately Rs. 18,000 crore in 2019 due to piracy, seeks to amend the existing Cinematograph Bill of 1952, which governs film certification and exhibition in India.
Piracy, characterized by unauthorized copying, distribution, or exhibition of films without consent from the rightful owners, has posed a major challenge for the Indian film industry, adversely impacting both its revenues and overall quality.
The primary objective of the Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill 2023 is to address the rampant issue of film piracy head-on. Beyond this, the proposed legislation also introduces provisions to reclassify films based on age groups, departing from the current ‘U,’ ‘A,’ and ‘UA’ classifications. The amendment aims to introduce new classifications such as “UA-7+,” “UA-13+,” and “UA-16+,” replacing the existing “UA-12.”
By streamlining the categorization of films and content across different platforms, the bill aims to establish uniformity and clarity in the certification process.
Once the bill is enacted, film piracy will be deemed a criminal offense with stringent punishments for offenders. Those responsible for piracy could face up to three years of imprisonment and a fine of Rs. 10 lakh.
The Cinematograph Bill has a long history, with its origins dating back to 1920 when Censor Boards were established in various cities under the Indian Cinematograph Act. It underwent reconstitution in 1952 and emerged as the Central Board of Film Censors, which was later renamed as the Central Board of Film Certifications in 1983.
The Cinematograph Bill of 1952 serves to provide provisions for certifying cinematograph films for public exhibition and to regulate such exhibitions. Under this act, a film will not be certified if any part of it is found to be against India’s sovereignty and integrity, the State’s security, friendly relations with foreign nations, public order, decency, or if it involves defamation or contempt of court.
Moreover, the title of the film is scrutinized according to the rules and guidelines of the Cinematograph Bill 1952. The act prohibits scenes depicting extreme violence, obscene language, vulgarity, contempt of court, insults to national symbols, and incorrect portrayals of personalities or religions.