Nowadays, online streaming is increasingly becoming popular all around the world. It is also Known as OTT (Over The Top) media services which referred to those media services that are delivered directly to users via the internet. Online streaming platforms have mostly replaced televisions and theatres in recent years. Netflix, Amazon, Voot, and Hotstar are some of the popular internet streaming services. Online streaming platforms are well-known not only for their accessibility but also for their user-friendly content. People are drawn to these platforms because of their uniqueness and portrayal of reality. These online platforms serve as an intermediary between content creators and viewers. The unique feature of these platforms, which sets them apart from traditional movie theatres or television, is that they let viewers see a diverse selection of material, including documentaries, series, and movies. It literally offered them the freedom to watch anything they wanted, whenever they wanted, without having to see a single advertisement.
Rising Market of OTT Platforms
Generally, these platforms are subscription-based, allowing users to select their preferred genre of viewing. In India, improved internet connections, networks, digital connectivity, smartphones, and OTT platforms have all drawn more users at the same time. Internet speed and other digital forms of networking and streaming are the two aspects of technology that have advanced the most in the last two decades, above all others. As a result of this India became the second-largest online market for online streaming platforms with the fastest growing OTT market. There are 749 million active internet users in India, with 251 million of them living in rural areas. Approximately 900 satellite TV stations, 6,000 multi-system operators, 60,000 local cable operators, and seven direct-to-home (DTH) service providers are now operational in the nation.
Many of the times, the unregulated nature of these online streaming platforms made it a matter of criticism. There have been instances when the content available on these platforms faced controversies. As a result, such streaming sites have been subjected to a number of legal challenges in which accusations have been made about the material portrayed by creators on these platforms. This again raises the question of censorship over these platforms. Recently, a PIL was also filed in the Supreme Court in which petitioner advocate Shashank Shekhar Jha argued that “no censoring allows exploitation of creative liberty and pushes for more ideas to be incorporated, allowing writers, directors, and producers to experiment limitlessly, resulting in more violence, sex scenes, obscene language, and even characters smoking on screen – that would normally be cut or displayed alongside health warnings.”
It should also be noted that the language of the material has grown “more informal” as a result of the lack of a monitoring authority. It’s also worth noting that the visuals and words are ruthless and violent. “This artistic freedom, which has no checks and balances, is frequently abused for OTT/Platform economic gain.” It is also worth mentioning that the usage of OTT platforms in India violates the right to freedom of speech guaranteed by Article 19, and hence violates the right to life of the general public (Article 21). There are several examples where these platforms have been regulated in countries such as Australia and the United Kingdom, where these platforms have formed partnerships with national governments to allow them to classify content by age, provide stringent parental locks to prevent children from accessing content that is unsuitable for them, and ensure proper mechanisms in the case of content that may have a greater impact on more sensitive individuals.
Problems with OTT Platforms
Various talks have taken place regarding the introduction of regulations to regulate these sites. People also often express their concerns about piracy. Content available on these platforms is frequently copied and sold on the internet for a low price, or even for free. Pirated software not only violates the copyright of the original content provider, but it also causes significant financial harm, as well as the loss of employment and, in some cases, the careers of artists. Many petitions to the Supreme Court have been filed about the formulation of rules for the content available on these sites. These petitions were submitted in order to get regulations governing unregulated, non-certified, obscene, pornographic, profane, and vulgar material. These petitions highlight the topic of how content may be characterized as obscene or whether it falls within the scope of obscenity. The term obscenity is not clearly defined in the IPC. However, there are methods that can assist in discerning between regular and obscene material. However, with the passage of time, the definition of obscenity would have evolved. Which seemed obscene and immoral when the laws were being framed at one point in time, is no longer indecent in the current environment. It’s also important to remember that what appears to be obscene in one society may be considered liberal in another.
As India is a democratic country and we all have the fundamental right to freedom and expression. Being a democratic country the debate on Online streaming: liberality or obscenity will always attract strong views. It would be unfair, in my opinion, to label a feature of any content obscene simply because it contains sexual content or profane language. In a literal sense, such information should never be considered immoral; rather, it should be seen as a reflection of present trends. It should also be recognized that these sites already provide proper notice and warn their viewers about the contents, thus calling the nature of the video obscene would be unjust. Moreover, the terms sex and obscenity are not necessarily interchangeable. It is hard to label a film, movie, or series as obscene just because it contains some profane or unusual terms or has a slang language narration of sentiments. My fervent recommendation to the government is that laws be drafted to limit what these platforms may disclose in the name of liberality, so as not to compromise the nation’s integrity. Censorship should not be the only and last option; other efforts should be undertaken towards this issue. There are other ways like parental controlling which we can make mandatory.
I want to complete by saying that we need legislation that does not attempt to ban material that may not be acceptable to the broader public but rather force OTT platforms to categorize and serve various viewers appropriately and efficiently. Obscenity and content liberality are both subjective terms that cannot be presumed to be the same for everyone. As a result, indiscriminate deletion or restriction of the material may lead to a situation in which platforms are only permitted to supply content that is acceptable for children, therefore arbitrarily restricting individual freedom to consensually consume any type of legally qualifying information.
Author(s) Name: Keshav Kulshrestha (Nirma University, Ahmedabad)
 India, India Adda and India’s Subscribers, ‘INDIA’s OTT MARKET: WITNESSING A RISE IN NUMBER OF PAID SUBSCRIBERS | IBEF | IBEF’ (Ibef.org, 2022) <https://www.ibef.org/blogs/india-s-ott-market-witnessing-a-rise-in-number-of-paid-subscribers> accessed 11 February 2022
 ‘Supreme Court Takes Up Plea Wanting Control And Censorship Of Digital OTT Platforms – India Legal’ (India Legal, 2022) <https://www.indialegallive.com/supreme-court-takes-up-plea-wanting-control-and-censorship-of-digital-ott-platforms/> accessed 13 February 2022.