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  • Writer's pictureDivanshi Gupta

Cinematography Redefined: Analysing Cinematography (Amendment) Bill, 2023

In the wake of technological advancements, the entertainment industry has experienced a paradigm shift, offering unparalleled convenience and posing significant challenges. While content consumption has been revolutionised, the rampant piracy facilitated by easy duplication and distribution has led to substantial financial losses and copyright infringement. In a resolute effort to combat the pervasive menace of piracy while simultaneously fostering the growth of the film industry, the Union Cabinet has recently passed the Cinematography (Amendment) Bill of 2023 (hereinafter referred to as the “Bill”).[1] The Bill marks a revision to the Cinematograph Act of 1952, constituting substantial amendments after nearly four decades. The amendments address several pressing concerns surrounding the Act of 1952. It works to align the existing legislation with executive orders, supreme court judgments, and concurrent legislations, ensuring a cohesive legal framework. Furthermore, it enhances the film licensing procedure for public exhibition by the Central Board of Film Certification, streamlining the process for filmmakers. Notably, the amendment introduces an expanded categorization system for certification, allowing a more nuanced classification of films. Above all, its primary focus is on countering unauthorised recording, exhibition, and the pervasive issue of film piracy, employing robust measures to effectively curb these detrimental practices. The amendments, including new provisions in the Act to prohibit the unauthorised recording and exhibition of films, have been provided below:

Prohibition of unauthorised recording and exhibition of films: The Bill introduces new provisions in the Act to prohibit the unauthorised recording of films under Section 6AA and their exhibition under Section 6AB. It establishes a prohibition on the act of recording, or assisting another individual in recording, any film that is currently being exhibited at a cinema theatre using audio-visual recording devices.[2] The bill focuses on the concept of 'authorised place of exhibition', which pertains to physical venues, particularly theatres, for film display. However, this excludes digital platforms such as OTT services. This definition marks an improvement from previous bills, clarifying piracy's scope as limited to "a place licensed to exhibit films."

Incorporating new privacy clauses, the Bill seeks to attain congruence with extant laws that tangentially pertain to piracy, specifically the Copyright Act and the Information Technology Act of 2000. The Bill imposes enhanced penalties on individuals culpable of engaging in piracy and incentivizing the unauthorised duplication of movies and shows nationwide. The penalty for the offence is subject to punishment, which includes imprisonment for a duration not less than three months but potentially extending to three years, accompanied by a fine ranging from a minimum of three lakh rupees to a maximum of five percent of the audited gross production cost.[3]

Revisional powers of the Central Government: Furthermore, the Bill explicitly delineates that the central authority shall no longer retain the power to exercise revisions over CBFC certificates. The amendment is congruent with the Supreme Court judgement. In the case of Union of India v. K.M. Shankarappa,[4] the apex court upheld the decision of the Karnataka High Court wherein the Section 6(1) was struck down as unconstitutional. The Court ruled that “once the government chose to establish a quasi-judicial board/body, and the body took a decision and certified the film for public exhibition, the executive could not sit in appeal over it. The court held Section 6(1) to be a travesty of the rule of law and contrary to the basic structure of the constitution. The court held that the executive could nullify or overrule a judicial or executive decision by enacting the appropriate legislation but they could not set at naught a judicial order without enacting an appropriate legislation. The court also negated the contention that there would be a law and order problem, and held that once an expert body has cleared the film, it is for the respective state government to maintain law and order.”[5]

Age-based Categories for Certification: Initially, the Cinematography Act, 1952 featured just two certificate categories: "U," indicating suitability for family viewing, including children, and "A," indicating content restricted for adults. In 1983, the Cinematography Act was amended to introduce two additional categories of certificates. The "UA" category was established, cautioning that children below the age of 12 could watch under parental guidance. The "S" category was introduced to restrict viewership to specialised audiences to members of any profession or any class of persons having regard to the nature, content and theme of the film. The Bill introduces three new certifications under the "UA" category: UA7+, UA13+, and UA16+[6]. These certifications allow children below the specified age limits to access corresponding movies under parental guidance.

Broadcasting of films on television and other media platforms: The Cable Television Network Act of 1995 allows the broadcasting of films categorised as "UA" on television. The Bill introduces a provision allowing for the alteration of a film's category from "A" or "S" to "UA" after making appropriate adjustments. Any individual desiring to broadcast a film on television or any other media platform as specified, which has been approved by the Board under the 'A' and 'S' categories, can submit an application to the Board according to the prescribed format and procedure. The Board, in this regard, may sanction the film with a separate certificate after the applicant carries out such excisions or modifications in the film as the Board may deem fit.[7]

Film Certificate in perpetuity: In the former provision, certificates issued by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) were granted validity for a duration of 10 years. In contrast, under the provisions of the new Bill, said certificates shall henceforth remain perpetually valid[8].

CONCLUSION The persistent threat of film piracy continues to present a complex and formidable challenge, jeopardising the economic foundation, artistic innovation, and moral principles of the film industry. To effectively address this issue, among others, the Bill stands as a comprehensive legislation that harmoniously aligns with both copyright and IT laws. In an ever-evolving society, it is imperative for legislation to adapt. The current legal framework adeptly serves the realm of the Cinematography Act, preventing piracy and safeguarding the rights of copyright holders.


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