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The Delhi High Court has asked the Government of India (pdf) to examine allegations of objectionable content (including soft porn) being made available for download on the online streaming app Hotstar. Hotstar is an application owned by STAR India.

The Court order comes after a plea by Un-Canned Media alleged Hotstar to be running an illegal distribution platform, unregulated by the government and outside the purview of censorship which also distributes soft pornography. The company has named both Star India and Novi Digital Entertainment as respondents for sidelining the law, according to DNA. As of now, online porn is sort of a grey area in India.

Note that the Court has asked the Government to take appropriate action in case any violation is taking place, which could lead to a gateway to setup online censorship procedures. A pro-censorship move by the Government could have a wide reaching effect on online streaming in India. Currently, streaming platform like YouTube, Hotstar etc., do not come under the purview of any censorship agency. As such, those that allow content uploading, like YouTube, have become the choice place for producers to launch movies and avoid censorship.

In fact, earlier this year, the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) said it would make it compulsory for filmmakers, producers, and directors in India to sign an undertaking which will bar them from releasing ‘excised portions of a feature or a film to anybody’, including on the internet. Note that while Hotstar, unlike YouTube, does not allow uploading user generated content, it is an online streaming platform, and any censorship procedures will likely affect all online streaming platforms.

Cinematograph Act does not include the internet

There are no provision in the Cinematograph Act (pdf) to certify or regulate content being uploaded to the internet by film-makers. It only has powers to certify/regulate films for “public exhibition in theatre or satellite/television channels, promos, trailers, etc, after examining the overall content.”