The Bill adds new age-based indicators to ‘UA’ category of films to aid parental guidance, provides for re-certification of ‘A’ rated films by the CBFC for exhibition on television and introduces new provisions to check film piracy.
THE Lok Sabha today passed a Bill seeking to ‘revamp’ the age-based certification given by the Central Board of Film (CBFC).
While seeking to maintain uniformity in the categorisation of films and contents across all platforms, theCinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2023, which was passed by the Rajya Sabha on July 27, also aims to curb the “menace” of film piracy on the internet.
The Bill amends theCinematograph Act, 1952 which empowers the CBFC— colloquially known as the ‘censor board’— to order deletions and certify films before public exhibition.
The amendment was passed by the Lok Sabha amid sloganeering by members of Parliament from the opposition parties demanding a discussion on ethnic violence in Manipur.
The House was adjourned as soon as the Bill was passed by a voice vote.
New age-based indicators
The Bill creates new age-based indicators within the ‘UA’ category of certification under which a film is allowed unrestricted public exhibition, but with parental guidance for children under 12.
Under the new sub-categorisation, films can be classified by the CBFC as ‘UA 7+’, ‘UA 13+’ and ‘UA 16+’, the numbers depicting the age under which their exhibition is allowed only under parental guidance.
This categorisation is only to provide guidance to parents and guardians, and would not be enforceable by theatres or other film exhibitors.
Other categories of certification have been left unaltered. These categories are: ‘U’ (unrestricted public exhibition), ‘A’ (restricted to adults) and ‘S’ (restricted for specialised viewing).
Currently, films certified ‘A’ are prohibited from exhibition on television, a fact noted by Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Anurag Thakur, in Lok Sabha today.
According to the amended provision, anyone willing to exhibit a film “or such other media as may be prescribed” certified ‘A’, may make an application to the CBFC, which may issue a new certificate to the film.
While re-certifying a film, the board may direct the applicant to carry out “such excisions or modifications in the film as it may think fit”.
The Bill provides that a certificate granted by the CBFC will be perpetually valid throughout India. Under the unamended Act, a certificate is only valid for 10 years from the date of certification.
Under the existing law, provided under Section 29Cinematograph Rules 1983, a fresh application for certification has to be made after the 10 year period has passed, unless a regional officer, with the prior approval of the chairman of the CBFC, dispenses with examination of the film, if the applications is for the issue of certificate in the same form in which it was issued earlier.
“Piracy is trying to uproot the film industry,” Thakur said during a discussion on the Bill.
Thakur further claimed that the Indian film industry suffers losses between ₹20,000–22,000 crore every year due to illegal dissemination of films on the internet.
To check film piracy, the Bill introduces a provision prohibiting the use of all audio-visual recording devices with the intention of making or transmitting or abetting the making or transmission of an infringing copy of a film or any part of it in a place licensed to exhibit films.
The above provision aims to put an end to the practice of recording films in theatres on mobile devices and to upload the same on websites that host such copyrighted material.
The Bill also introduces a provision prohibiting unauthorised exhibition of infringing copies of films for profit.
A violation of the aforementioned two provisions will attract an imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than three months, but may extend to three years.
In addition to imprisonment, an offender shall also be liable to a fine not less than ₹3 lakh but which may extend to 5 percent of the audited gross production cost.
However, certain “fair use” exemptions enumerated in theCopyright Act, 1957 will apply to the two offences, implying that unauthorised exhibition of films can be allowed for private use, reporting of current affairs, or for the purpose of critique or where the copyright owner has consented.
With such provisions, the Bill attempts to bring the Cinematograph Act into line with existing laws that cover piracy or aspects incidental to it, namely the Copyright Act and theInformation Technology Act, 2000.