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Streaming services censor themselves in India, even though they don’t need to

At 2am on March 29, film producer Gaurav Dhingra got an email and a missed call. They were from Netflix. Angry Indian Goddesses, a film Dhingra produced, was due to release on Netflix in a day. It had released in the rest of the world a couple weeks earlier. In 2015, when Netflix bought the film, Dhingra asked for assurance from them that they would release it uncensored everywhere, including India. Netflix agreed. After all, the censored version of the film was only required for theatrical exhibition, not for people watching it online. Yet, come 2017, Netflix didn't want to take the chance. They gave Dhingra and his partner Pan Nalin, who directed the film, an ultimatum: send the censored version and they would release it in India, or they would hold on to the rights and never release the film in the country. The production company, Jungle Book Entertainment, relented. Because of how Netflix accepts video from studios, the producers had to remaster the censored version for online release, and this ended up delaying the film's online release by weeks. Netflix did not respond to a question on this version of events. The service has since silently reversed its censorship of the film in India -- the unedited version is now available on Netflix in India. Why streaming services censor There's really no legal reason for streaming services to censor their content. The Cinematograph Act and its rules are the basis on which film censorship is carried out in India, and it only regulates censorship…

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I cover the digital content ecosystem and telecom for MediaNama.

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