Parliament Passes Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill 2023 to Curb Film Piracy

On July 31, the Parliament passed the Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2023, to curb the menace of piracy after the same received approval from the Lok Sabha. It seeks to amend the Cinematograph Act, 1952, which governs the certification of films for exhibition in India. The Bill was passed by the Rajya Sabha on July 27, 2023, after it was introduced in the upper house on July 20, 2023.

The amendments propose significant changes to the film certification process, aiming to ensure age-appropriate content and combat unauthorised recordings and exhibitions.

Under the 1952 Act, the Board of Film Certification is responsible for certifying films for public exhibition. These certifications are categorized as ‘U’ (Unrestricted), ‘UA’ (Unrestricted with parental guidance), ‘A’ (Restricted to adults), and ‘S’ (Restricted to a specific profession or class). However, the Bill replaces the ‘UA’ category with three distinct age-appropriate categories – UA 7+, UA 13+, and UA 16+. The age endorsement provided by the Board will guide parents or guardians, but it will not be enforceable by anyone other than them. Additionally, films with an ‘A’ or ‘S’ certificate will now require a separate certificate for exhibition on television or any other media platform authorised by the Central Government. The Board may direct filmmakers to make appropriate deletions or modifications for this separate certificate.

The Bill strictly prohibits any unauthorised recording or exhibition of films and considers attempting such unauthorised recording as an offence. Here, an unauthorised recording refers to making or transmitting an infringing copy of a film at a licensed venue for a film exhibition without the owner’s authorisation. An unauthorised exhibition involves publicly displaying an infringing copy of the film for profit at an unlicensed location or in a manner that violates copyright laws. To deter such offences, the Bill prescribes punishments, including imprisonment ranging from three months to three years and fines ranging from three lakh rupees to 5% of the audited gross production cost.

As per the 1952 Act, the certificate issued by the Board has a 10-year validity whereas the Bill provides for the perpetual validity of film certificates.

The Bill also takes away the Central Government’s revisional powers over films that have been certified or are awaiting certification. The same is in line with the judgment of the Apex Court in the case of KM Shankarappa v. Union of India.