Film Censors Given Powers to Remove Pirated Movies From YouTube, Telegram

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India's Ministry of Information and Broadcasting announced on Friday that the country's film censorship board has been given powers to remove pirated films from platforms like YouTube. Copyright holders, their agents, "and/or any other person" may file a complaint by filling in what appears to be a paper form. The Ministry adds that if the complainant isn't a copyright holder or hasn't been authorized by one, individual hearings may be considered on a case-by-case basis.

old-pirates-sIndia’s Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill was first introduced in 2019 with the aim of updating the Cinematograph Act, 1952, to better protect filmmakers.

In April 2023, India’s Union Cabinet gave the bill a green light and during July it was passed by both Houses of Parliament. The primary goal of these amendments is to reduce rampant online movie piracy, but also contains measures related to the certification of films. This ultimately determines the content that citizens are allowed to view and under what circumstances, and the content they must not view at all.

This process is handled by India’s powerful Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), a body within the government’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B). An announcement from the latter on Friday reveals new anti-piracy powers for the CBFC under the recently passed legislation.

CBFC Empowered to Order Intermediaries to Stop Piracy

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting begins by drawing attention to section 6AB of the amended Cinematograph Act.

6AB. No person shall use or abet the use of an infringing copy of any film to exhibit to the public for profit— (a) at a place of exhibition which has not been licensed under this Act or the rules made thereunder; or (b) in a manner that amounts to the infringement of copyright under the provisions of the Copyright Act, 1957 or any other law for the time being in force

With that established, the Ministry notes that since a newly-inserted amendment allows the government to get involved to ensure compliance with the above, that’s exactly what it intends to do.

“Further, the newly inserted section 7(1B)(ii) in the Cinematograph Act provides that the Government may take suitable action for removing/disabling access to such an infringing copy exhibited/hosted on an intermediary platform in a manner in contravention to the section 6AB referred to above,” the announcement adds.

Suitable Action As Follows

Tackling the distribution of pirated movies in India takes place under the Copyright Act, as one might expect. However, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting notes that since there is no “institutional mechanism” to “directly take action” against pirated movies, section 7(1B)(ii) mentioned above will now provide one.

The Ministry says it has “established an institutional mechanism of Nodal Officers to receive complaints against piracy and direct the intermediaries to take down pirated content on digital platforms.”

Appointed by the Ministry, the ‘Nodal Officers’ will be found at the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) headquarters in Mumbai and at various regional offices in major film production centers. From there they will receive complaints about piracy taking place online and then instruct platforms to take offending content down.

Which Platforms Are Affected and Who Can File a Complaint?

In a statement on Friday, officials mentioned YouTube and Telegram directly but there seems no obvious barrier to content being taken down from any social media or video hosting platform.

“As per the amended Cinematograph Act, regional officers in CBFC have been empowered to issue orders to remove pirated films from any source such as Telegram and YouTube following a complaint. The platforms will need to act and remove the unlawfully reproduced content within 48 hours,” an official said.

In respect of who is able to file a complaint, original copyright holders or those authorized to act on their behalf are clearly defined, as one might expect. However, the government announcement states that non-copyright holders may also file complaints, with the same applying to those who have no authorization from copyright holders to take infringing content down.

non-copyright holder india

The offer to consider complaints, filed by non-copyright holders that have no authorization from copyright holders, is certainly interesting. While not everyone involved in movies is a copyright holder (some will be licensed, for example), having no authorization to act sounds a lot like having no permission, but there may be some exceptions.

Lots of Complaints May Cause a Few Issues

Since the ‘Nodal Officers’ may consider a hearing to handle such complaints on a case-to-case basis, the numbers will need to be extremely low so as not to outstretch capacity. For the whole of India, just 12 members of staff have been allocated to deal with complaints filed under this initiative. To put that into perspective, there are anti-piracy companies in India filing complaints with Google at a rate that exceeds 300K per week.

It’s unclear whether complaints will be accepted online but the official announcement on Friday was accompanied by a sample complaint form which seems like it’s intended to be filled in manually, presumably with a pen. One can only imagine the chaos if that remains the case but at least the lists are likely to be quite short, if ‘enclosing’ an Excel spreadsheet isn’t an option.

paper complaint

Friday’s announcement is available here (pdf)


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