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EVOLUTION OF FILM REGULATIONS: ANALYZING THE CINEMATOGRAPH (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2023 IN CONTRAST TO THE 1952 ACT

INTRODUCTION

The Union Cabinet’s approval of the Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2023 marks a significant step towards preserving the movie-going experience and combating film piracy in India. The proposed legislation, which is set to be introduced in the upcoming session of Parliament, aims to bring about crucial changes to the existing Cinematograph Act, 1952. With the need for amendments arising from the evolving film industry landscape and the challenges posed by piracy, this blog delves into the key changes proposed by the bill and explores its potential implications.

OBJECTIVE OF THE BILL

The 2023 Bill seeks to address various concerns related to film certification, piracy, and content categorization. Its primary objectives include enhancing the certification process, curbing film piracy, ensuring uniformity in film categorization, and aligning with Supreme Court judgements. By introducing new sub-age categories for film classification and imposing harsher penalties for piracy, the bill aims to strike a balance between freedom of expression and reasonable restrictions.

THE NEED FOR AMENDMENT

The evolution of technology, the proliferation of television channels and digital platforms, and the rise of online piracy have necessitated the amendment of the Cinematograph Act, 1952. The existing laws and regulations have become outdated in the face of these challenges, resulting in significant financial losses for the film industry and infringement of intellectual property rights. The proposed amendment aims to address these concerns and bring the legislation in line with the changing landscape of the film industry.

KEY CHANGES PROPOSED BY THE 2023 BILL

The bill introduces several noteworthy changes that are crucial to understanding its potential impact on the film industry and related stakeholders. Let us delve into the specific provisions and amendments introduced by the bill:

New Sub-age Categories for Film Classification: The bill proposes replacing the current film classification categories with more precise sub-age categories. The existing categories of ‘U’ (unrestricted public exhibition), ‘A’ (restricted to adult audiences), and ‘UA’ (unrestricted public exhibition subject to parental guidance for children below the age of 12) will be replaced with ‘UA-7+’, ‘UA-13+’, and ‘UA-16+’. This change is intended to provide age-based classifications for films, catering to different maturity levels. It allows filmmakers and audiences to make more informed choices regarding the age-appropriateness of content.

Harsher Penalties for Film Piracy: To combat film piracy effectively, the bill proposes stringent punishments for individuals involved in piracy. Those found guilty of piracy may face imprisonment for up to three years and a penalty of Rs 10 lakh. By making piracy a legal offence and introducing severe consequences, the bill aims to deter potential offenders and protect the interests of filmmakers and the film industry as a whole. This provision emphasizes the need to safeguard intellectual property rights and curb financial losses due to piracy.

Recertification of Edited Films for Television Broadcast: The bill introduces a provision for the recertification of edited films before their television broadcast. Only films falling under the ‘Unrestricted Public Exhibition’ category will be eligible for television screening. This provision ensures that films comply with the appropriate certification standards for television audiences and maintain the integrity of the film certification process.

Perpetual Certification: The bill proposes to make film certification perpetual instead of the current ten-year validity. This change aligns with the recommendations of stakeholders and ensures that once a film receives certification, it remains valid indefinitely. This amendment reduces the administrative burden on filmmakers and provides more certainty regarding the certification process.

The provisions introduced by the amended Bill bring significant changes that have the potential to impact the film industry and its stakeholders. The introduction of new sub-age categories for film classification addresses the need for a more precise categorization system, allowing for better age-based classification and responsible viewing choices. Harsher penalties for film piracy, including imprisonment and hefty fines, serve as a strong deterrent and protect the interests of filmmakers and the industry as a whole. The provision for recertification of edited films ensures compliance with certification standards for television broadcasting, maintaining integrity and consistency in content presentation. Moreover, the proposal for perpetual certification streamlines the certification process, reduces the administrative burden on filmmakers, and provides more certainty for certified films. These changes collectively aim to promote a responsible, protected, and thriving film industry ecosystem while safeguarding the interests of stakeholders and encouraging creativity and innovation in filmmaking.

IMPLICATIONS OF THE BILL FOR THE FILM INDUSTRY AND STAKEHOLDERS

The proposed amendments have significant implications for the film industry and its stakeholders. Stricter punishments for film piracy can act as a deterrent and protect the intellectual property rights of filmmakers. This, in turn, can boost investor confidence and encourage creativity and innovation in the industry. The introduction of new sub-age categories for film classification provides clarity for filmmakers and audiences alike, allowing them to make informed choices based on the age-appropriateness of the content.

The introduction of age-based film classification provides a more nuanced approach to address the diverse preferences of audiences. Filmmakers can now cater to specific age groups without compromising artistic integrity. Furthermore, the increased penalties for film piracy aim to deter individuals from engaging in illegal activities. However, implementing and enforcing these provisions effectively may pose challenges, requiring close collaboration between law enforcement agencies, government bodies, and the film industry.

The bill’s emphasis on uniformity in film classification across platforms is a crucial step toward creating a standardized system for content categorization. This alignment with the Supreme Court judgements and executive orders ensures that film regulations keep pace with evolving societal norms and expectations. However, achieving consistency in the implementation and interpretation of the amendments may require clear guidelines and ongoing monitoring.

CONCLUSION

The Bill of 2023, holds the potential to bring positive changes to India’s film industry. With its focus on combatting film piracy, introducing age-based film classification, and establishing uniformity across platforms, the bill aims to create a more secure and progressive environment for filmmakers and audiences alike. By enhancing intellectual property rights protection and streamlining the certification process, the amendments encourage creativity, investment, and job creation within the industry. However, the successful implementation and enforcement of the bill’s provisions will require effective collaboration between stakeholders and continuous monitoring. With these changes, the Indian film industry is poised to adapt to evolving trends and audience preferences while safeguarding the interests of filmmakers and promoting a vibrant cinematic culture.

Author(s) Name: Darshita Chaudhary (Dr. B.R. Ambedkar National Law University, Sonipat)