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Special Content

Issue no 21, 19-25 August 2023

Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2023

EN Explain


The Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2023 has been passed by both houses of the Parliament, paving way for its enactment after the President's assent. The bill, initially introduced in the Rajya Sabha on July 20, 2023 was passed by the upper house on July 27, 2023 and subsequently by the Lok Sabha on July 31, 2023. This is the second amendment to the Cinematograph Act, the first instance being 40 years ago in 1984. 

Why the new Bill?

Indian Cinema has been a significant contributor to its soft power, promoting Indian culture, heritage and values globally. Moreover, Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi has envisioned India to become the content hub of the world with the view of promoting Indian talents and businesses.

Keeping the needs of the changing time, the Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2023 aims to fight piracy and to further promote the film industry. These amendments will go a long way in comprehensively curbing the menace of piracy and will also empower Indian film industry with Ease of Doing Business. The Bill will prove to be beneficial for the growth of the content creation ecosystem in India, and will help safeguard the interests of all artistes and artisans working in the sector.

What is Piracy?

India is known as a country of storytellers with its rich culture, heritage, legacy and diversity. The Indian film industry is one of the biggest and most globalised industries in the world producing more than 3,000 films annually in more than 40 languages.

Over the next three years, the Indian film industry is projected to grow to $100 billion, providing employment to lakhs of people. However, the vitality and growth of the industry is threatened by piracy.

The Britannica defines piracy as the "act of illegally reproducing or disseminating copyrighted material, such as computer programs, books, music, and films". The medium of cinema, the tools and the technology associated with it have undergone vital changes over this period of time. The menace of piracy has also grown manifold, with the advent of the internet and social media. Pirated movies are now available not just on CDs, but also on the internet. In fact, a study by CSIR-NIScPR found that online digital piracy of films had risen by 62% in India within a month of the start of the global pandemic in 2020.

As stated by the Minister of Information & Broadcasting, Shri Anurag Singh Thakur, the menace of piracy is causing losses to the tune of around Rs. 20,000 crores annually to the film industry. Piracy is not only a financial loss for the film industry, but it also leads to job losses. The production of a film involves a large number of people, from actors and directors to technicians and crew members. Piracy affects them all.

Section 51 of the Indian Copyright Act, 1957 categorises infringement into primary and secondary acts of infringement. Offline piracy amounts to primary infringement as there is distribution and communication to the public without authorisation from the owner for a commercial gain. Online digital piracy constitutes secondary infringement in so far as the film is exhibited on internet platforms and search engines to be downloaded, streamed and shared by the user. This may be in the form of uploading or sharing of copyright content via P2P file-sharing technology, knowingly contributing towards sharing of content over platforms that facilitate unauthorised downloading or streaming of content, or by posting of copyright content owned by others on publicly accessible servers. In the context of cinematographic films, any such act of uploading, downloading or illegally streaming film/movie content constitutes an act of piracy.

The Amended Bill: According to its Statement of Objects and Reasons, the Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2023 aims to deal with the issue of unauthorised recording and exhibition of films and curb the menace of film piracy by transmission of unauthorised copies on the internet. It states to address the issues relating to film certification, improve the procedure for certification of films for public exhibition by the Central Board of Film Certification, as well as to improve the categorisations of the certification of the films; and harmonise the law with extant executive orders, judicial decisions and other relevant legislations.

Some major changes brought by the Bill include additional categories for certification of films based on age; unauthorised recording or its attempt made punishable, and certificates to be perpetually valid. Let's have a look in detail.

1. Unauthorised Recording: The Bill attempts to address the issue of unauthorised recording and exhibition of films and curb the menace of film piracy by transmission of unauthorised copies on the internet. To check film piracy by way of cam-cording in the theatres and most importantly also prohibit any unauthorised copying and online transmission and exhibition of a pirated copy of any film, strict penal provisions have been incorporated. The Bill inserts two new sections 6AA and 6AB relating to "Prohibition of unauthorised recording" and "Prohibition of unauthorised exhibition of films." It also makes "attempt" and "abetment" to make unauthorised recording punishable. These offences will be punishable with: imprisonment between 3 months and 3 years, and a fine between Rs. 3 lakh and 5% of the audited gross production cost.


2. Categories of Film Exhibition: The Bill attempts to improve the procedure for certification of films for public exhibition by the Central Board of Film Certification, as well as improve categorisations of the certifications of the films. Under Sections of 4 and 5-A of the earlier Cinematograph Act, a film was certified for exhibition in the following categories: 'U' - without restriction, 'U/A' - without restriction, but subject to guidance of parents or guardians for children below 12 years of age, 'A'- only to adults, and 'S' - only to members of any profession or class of persons. However, the amended Bill substitutes section 4 of the Act, introducing three sub-categories under 'U/A' certification based on the age of the viewers. The new categories are - 'U/A 7+', 'U/A 13+' and 'U/A 16+' for viewers of age 7 and above, 13 and above, and 16 and above, respectively.  This empowers the Central Board of Film Certification to sanction the film with a separate certificate for its exhibition on television or such other media as may be prescribed. These age-based markers would be only recommendatory, meant for the parents or guardians to consider whether their children should view such a film.

Additionally, the Bill also mentions 'Change of Category of Film for Television,' referring to recertification of 'edited films' for Television broadcast, as only 'U' rated films can be shown on Television.

3. Perpetuity of Film Certificate: According to Section 5-A (3), a certificate granted by the Board used to be valid throughout India for a period of ten years. The Government has done away with the requirement to renew film's licence every 10 years and has made it valid for lifetime. Keeping up with the judgement of the Supreme Court in Union of India Vs. K.M. Shankarappa case, the Government has kept itself away from the revisional power and now the autonomous body of CBFC will have the full authority to look into such matters.


Compiled by: Anuja Bhardwajan & Annesha Banerjee (Young Professionals, Publications Division)

Source: PIB/Britannica/CSIR