It takes an army to create any piece of cinema, let alone a super-hit movie. From the cast to the directors to the producers, to the crew, a lot of effort goes behind-the-scenes to produce that magic on the big screen. And when an audience member decides to engage in piracy, by recording the film on their personal device and put it up on the internet, the whole team takes a hit as it directly affects their revenue when people decide to watch it online instead of theatres. This is where the Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill 2023 comes in as a relief to fix this issue.

The Bill was passed by the Rajya Sabha on 27th July, 2023. It primarily aims to crack down on the piracy of films and revamp their certification by the censor board. On 31st July 2023, the Lok Sabha approved the Bill as well which introduces stricter penalties for film piracy and imprisonment for those who record movies inside cinemas. It also expands the number of age ratings available to the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), which censors and clears films for public viewing without altering the Board’s censorship powers. This was the first substantial amendment to the Cinematograph Act 1953 since 1984 when the minimum punishment for an offence relating to a video film was introduced.

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What The Bill Entails

The Indian film fraternity welcomes this move as the Cinematograph Act 2023 introduces age-based certifications, a three-year jail term and a fine of up to 5% of a movie’s production cost for those involved in making its pirated copies and circulation of such content. It also introduces three certifications under the ‘UA’ category, UA 7+, UA 13+ and UA 16+, which means that children younger than the given age limits can access such movies with parental guidance. The Bill also removes section 6.1 of the old Act that granted powers to the Central Government to revise the certification of a film. Thus empowering the Central Board of Film Certification to give separate certificates for a film’s exhibition on television or other media.

Now, the Bill prohibits recording or helping a person record any film that is being exhibited at a cinema theatre using audio-visual devices. While inserting new clauses for piracy, the Bill aims to harmonise the Cinematograph Act with the existing laws that tangentially address piracy — the Copyright Act, 1957 and the Information Technology Act (IT) 2000.

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The Need For Amendments

The film industry is facing a loss of over Rs 20,000 crore annually because of piracy. Online piracy saw a 62% surge during the pandemic,” said Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur in the Rajya Sabha. Over the years, the forms of film piracy have changed from CDs and pen drives to online websites and social media now. Recently, many Hollywood and Bollywood movies were available online right after their theatrical or digital release. Producer and CBFC member Vani Tripathi Tikoo said “We still remember Aamir Khan’s fight against piracy during Lagaan (2001) release. It has been 2 decades and we are still discussing piracy. Now piracy has shifted to the digital space.” This makes the Amendment to the Act an imminent change.

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The Implications On The Digital World

There is a trend of people posting about watching a new movie in the theatre on their social media to update their friends and followers. This amendment has stirred a wave of confusion amongst the masses. Would they be arrested for posting clips or stills from the movie onto their social media? Anurag Thakur cleared this common doubt. He said that if you record a shot for one minute and don’t post it, then you will not be punished. Although, if you record the entire movie and try to gain profit from it then you will be punished under Section 6A of the Cinematograph Act. Apart from that Delhi High Court restrained rogue websites from streaming ‘Brahmastra‘ and ‘Ram Setu‘. Madras High Court ordered blocking of 13000+ websites to prevent piracy of Vikram Vedha (Hindi remake).

The Industry Reacts

These long overdue amendments have garnered lots of appreciation from many noteworthy members of the film fraternity including the Producers Guild of India (PGI), censor board chief Prasoon Joshi and producer Dinesh Vijan.

We welcome the passing of the Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill 2023 by both Houses of Parliament and are especially grateful for the provisions prescribing stricter penalties against piracy” tweeted PGI thanking Anurag Thakur, Union Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Minister and the Ministry.

Prasoon Joshi applauded the passing of this Act as one that is evolving keeping in mind the current industry and audience preferences in his tweet.

The production banner behind blockbusters like ‘Kantara‘ and ‘KGF‘, Homable Films, said “Embracing positive change in the film industry! The Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2023 is a step towards better film certification, piracy prevention and harmonizing laws. We extend our gratitude to the government for their support and empowering the film fraternity!” in a tweet.

Dinesh Vijan’s Maddock Films also applauds this move and what the future holds for the industry.

Kabir Singh‘ producer Ashwin Varde also welcomed the Bill in his tweet saying “A historic day. A great initiative. A game changer for the entire film industry. Thank you @ianuragthakur and everyone who made it possible.”

All in all, this Amendment proves to be a much-needed move to retain the sanctity of a film and the industry, as a whole.