India: Cinematograph Act amended to add financial penalties and imprisonment for piracy

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The Rajya Sabha, the Upper House of the Parliament of India, has approved amendments to the country’s 70-year-old Cinematograph Act to add clauses specific to piracy, whose most recent previous amendment was in 1984.  The bill had been introduced in 2019.  It must still be approved by the Lok Sabha (the Lower House), followed by a signature of the President, to become law.

New language specifies that “No person shall use any audio-visual recording device in a place licensed to exhibit films with the intention of making or transmitting or attempting to make or transmit or abetting the making or transmission of an infringing copy of such film or a part thereof,” and goes on to define what an audio-visual recording device is.

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No person shall “use or abet the use of an infringing copy of any film to the public for profit (a) at a place of exhibition which has not been licensed…” or infringes on copyright under India’s 1957 copyright act or other law.

Strict penalties

Those convicted of audiovisual piracy will receive a minimum prison term of three months, which could be extended to as much as three years.  In addition, convicted pirates will be fined a minimum of three lakh rupees (one lakh = 100,000, equivalent to about US$1,200), or as much as five percent of the audited gross production cost of the pirated property.

A person “aggrieved by a contravention” (e.g. the victim of an act of piracy) can also take legal action for an infringement under India’s copyright act and for computer-related offenses under India’s Information Technology Act of 2000.

Other provisions

The Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill of 2023 also specifies new film rating and approval criteria by India’s Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), and bans on adult-rated programming on television.

The provisions of this bill will remain valid for ten years; presumably to be reviewed for a possible update before that period expires.

Further reading

Bill No. XLIV of 2023. The Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2023.  A bill further to amend the Cinematograph Act 1952.  Introduced to Parliament (The Rajya Sabha) on 20 July, 2023.  Shri Anurag Singh Thakur, Minister of Information and Broadcasting.

Parliament passes Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2023. News release. July 31, 2023. PIB Delhi (Press Information Bureau of the Government of India)

A Historic Day for Our Film Industry. Tweet and Video. July 31, 2023. Shri Thakur, Union Minister for Information & Broadcasting

Why it matters

According to an estimate cited in the PIB press release, digital piracy in India caused an annual revenue loss of up to Rs 20,000 Crores (equivalent to about US$2.4 Billion in August 2023), to the film industry.  In 2021, India ranked third globally based on the number of visits made to illegal video streaming websites.

“India is known as a country of story tellers which shows our rich culture, heritage, legacy and diversity. In the next 3 years our film industry will grow to 100 billion dollars, providing employment to lakhs of people,” said Shri Anurag Singh Thakur, Union Minister for Information & Broadcasting. “Keeping the needs of the changing time, we have brought this bill to fight piracy and to further promote the film industry. These amendments will comprehensively curb the menace of ‘piracy’ which is causing losses of Rs. 20,000 crores to the film industry”

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