Legal Issues Faced by Media and Entertainment Sector in India

The M&E industry has grown rapidly in the last decade as a result of digitisation and internet usage. Through demographics and various means, such as radio, theatre, print, television, video, gaming, ads, music, OTT services, and so on, the Internet has become a traditional entertainment media for the majority of people. As an industry grows at such an unpredictably fast pace, it also brings with it a new set of problems, which this article examines.

Wed Jun 29 2022 | Business Law | Comments (0)

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There are various fields in the media and entertainment industry that are relevant to the Indian media and entertainment industry, including TV serials, movies, and small segments such as radio, gaming, internet advertising, and music. The future of Indian media and entertainment is inextricably linked to the country's economic growth. Indian television, which is four times the size of the Indian film industry, is the media and entertainment industry with the  most consistent production. India's media and entertainment industry is expected to rise at a compound annual growth rate of 14.3 percent.

The M&E industry is a big one, with several laws governing different facets of it. We have laws relating to the control of advertising on various exhibition platforms such as cinema theatres, television, and the internet, such as the Cinematograph Act of 1952, the Cable Television Network Regulation Act of 1995, and the Information Technology Act of 2000. Then there are laws including the Copyright Act of 1957 and the Trademarks Act of 1999, which deal with intellectual property.The Indian Penal Code of 1860 stipulates penalties for a variety of offences, most of which are related to incidents in the M&E industry, such as injuring religious beliefs, defamation, and selling stolen goods.

The legal issues that affect the M&E industry in India are discussed here.

Regulation of Content

  • Freedom of speech and expression is the bedrock of democracy and the M&E sector's operation. Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution guarantees the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression. This right is said to be the mother of all liberty, and it holds the highest place in the hierarchy of all other liberties. However, no right is absolute.
  • Article 19(2) establishes equal restrictions on the exercise of that right where it is essential for the security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency, morality, sovereignty, and integrity of India, or in relation to contempt of, defamation of, or incitement to an offence. The State, on the other hand, must exercise caution in enforcing these just restrictions, and the burden of proof is always on the authority to justify the restrictions imposed.
  • All legislation regulating content, whether the Cinematograph Act or the Cable Television Network Control Act, have their origins in the Constitution. However, over time, the authorities have grossly exceeded their authority, well beyond what the Constitution intended in terms of reasonable limitations.
  • Several instances of artistic freedom of speech and expression have been curtailed, whether it was the CBFC's censorship of films, state governments' banning of films, or the I&B Ministry's attempt to regulate television content despite the existence of self-regulatory bodies such as the Indian Broadcasting Foundation.
  • The Apex Court in S Rangarajan v O. Jagjivan Ram [(1989) 2SCC574] claimed that:

The fundamental freedom under Art.  19(1)(a) can be reasonably restricted only for the purposes mentioned in Art.  19(2) and the restriction must be justified on the anvil of necessity and not the quicks and of convenience and expediency. Open criticism of Government policies and operations is not a ground for restricting expression. We must practice tolerance to the views of others. Intolerance is as much dangerous to democracy as to the person himself

Piracy

  • Everybody is aware of the M&E sector's fight with piracy. According to estimates, the film industry alone loses US$ 2.8 billion in piracy revenue per year. The movie theatre business model is also being threatened by the rapid availability of low-cost rental options and a rise in consumer digital downloads. Piracy has also hindered the capacity of digital media to monetize content. The study goes on to say that high content prices, low income levels, and cheaper internet infrastructure are all factors that contribute to content piracy.
  • Camcording in cinemas one day before the film's release in the Indian market is a major cause of film leakage and release in other geographies, such as the UAE. Films are made available digitally within hours of their publication. In certain cases, even before they are written.
  • Producers may also obtain John Doe orders from the courts to keep their films from being pirated. In the landmark case of Shreya Singhal v/s Union of India, the Supreme Court interpreted Section 79 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (which deals with safe harbour provisions for intermediaries) in such a way that the removal of online material can only take place if an adjudicatory body issues an order requiring intermediaries to remove the content. The aforementioned decision shields intermediaries from responsibility because they fail to comply with a court order requiring them to remove illegal material rather than simple requests from a third party.
  • Regrettably, the producers are forced to approach the courts in order to protect their rights against this danger. While the government is working to delete websites that upload pirated content, such as the Maharashtra Cyber Digital Crime Unit (MCDCU), which started operations in August 2017, much more needs to be done. Piracy has long been one of the most serious issues confronting the M&E industry, and it continues to be so.

Abuse of penal laws

  • Public misapplication of criminal laws has been one of the most concerning trends in the M&E industry. In recent years, the number of criminal cases filed under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 for offences such as hurting religious feelings (Section 295A), defamation (Section 499, 500), selling obscene items, performing obscene acts and songs, and so on has increased (Section 293, 294).

Technology and Agnostic Laws

  • As technology advances, regulations must evolve as well. India's lack of technology-agnostic legislation, in my opinion, is a big impediment to the M&E market's ability to keep up with the booming digital economy, including the lack of data privacy laws. Just a small percentage of media industry players welcome emerging innovations into their field of work, while the majority are wary of the potential for backlash or trouble that these new "uncommon" solutions can create. As a result, the players become reliant on obsolete methodologies, making it difficult for them to communicate business between themselves.

COVID-19 specific Contract Issues

  • The disruptive impact of a global pandemic resulting in job reductions, border closures, and forced work-from-home arrangements increases the likelihood of non-performance, poor performance, delay, and non-payment. Physical contracts are difficult to carry out. The cancellation of film premieres, premieres, and events raises a slew of practical issues, including potential reimbursements, exchanges, and contractual obligations, particularly for stakeholders such as sponsors, broadcasters, and ticket holders, who may have invested significant amounts of money that are now subject to uncertainty and losses.
  • The parties should review the agreements for clauses such as termination and force majeure, and determine if the deadlines and obligations can be mutually revised as the best course of action at that time. The parties must decide if production schedules and release dates can be delayed, given the restrictions on crew members and the unwillingness of audiences to come to the theatres.

Conclusion

This article contains a rundown of the difficulties/challenges faced by the media and entertainment industries, both collectively and individually. The general trend is for society to move toward digital and social transformation. With the use of rapidly evolving technology, disseminating information and news has become much easier. The effects of technology are dependent on the general changes in the industry, their impact on each country, and how their audiences respond  and adapt to the transition. It also relies on censorship, manipulation, professionalism, and interpersonal relationships, as well as policies that are framed, regulated, and implemented.

This post, on the other hand, mentions all of the issues we hear about in our everyday lives, while the real, ground-level problems are beyond its scope. The launch of FDI, government restrictions and economic effects, modern consumer lifestyles, and technological innovation are all happening in and around the Indian media industry today. Though producing high-quality finished products, the industry must persevere in the face of adversity. To prosper in the economy, the media industry has what it takes to be a tool rather than a weapon; all it takes is a little government assistance and the general public's open mind, ears, and eyes.

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