The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has proposed amendments to the Cinematograph Act, 1952 to combat piracy and sought comments on the bill. It proposes inclusion of imprisonment of three years and a fine of upto Rs 10 lakhs for piracy attempts. The comments on the Draft Cinematograph Act (Amendment) Bill can be submitted till 2 February, 2019 on jsfilms.inb@nic.in.

The Ministry underlines the loss to the film industry and government exchequers due to piracy as a reason to enable the provision in the Act.

As per the proposed amendment:

  • If a person records, uses any recording device to copy, transmit or abets in transmission of a film, its audio, video or any content covered under Cinematograph Act, (while it is being exhibited) they shall be liable for punishment.
  • The punishment includes a maximum jail term of three years and a fine not exceeding Rs 10 lakh.
  • This applies to all the people who participate in the act of creating a copy or transmitting the content, without the written authorisation from the copyright owner of the content.

Note that, the Section 7 of the Cinematograph Act, 1952 currently deals with who can watch and exhibit which films and penalties for violating terms and conditions related to exhibition of board certified films.

John Doe orders in India

The John Doe orders, known as an “Ashok Kumar” order in India, gives ISPs the power to block websites upon request from content owners (hence ‘unidentified’ websites), without having to validate each block with the court. In the recent past, John Doe orders have been used by content creators to safeguard their IP.

Here are some of the cases.

  • In November 2016, Viacom18 obtained an interim John Doe order from the Madras High Court which restricted over 1250 identified and unidentified websites hosting links to pirated content of the movie Force 2.
  • In August 2016, Balaji Motion Pictures got a John Doe order from Madras HC against 830 websites to prevent the piracy of A Flying Jatt.
  • In July 2016, John Abraham and Varun Dhawan starrer Dishoom was denied a John Doe order by the Bombay High Court since the makers were requesting a blockade for entire websites. The Bombay HC instead served Jon Doe orders only to specific URLs or sub sections of a website that might infringe or already have infringed copyrights in the past.
  • In June 2016, the Delhi High Court had granted a John Doe order to Sony Pictures Networks India and Balaji Motion Pictures for their film Azhar.
  • In June 2015, the now dissolved Phantom Films got a John Doe order from the Bombay High Court to block sites that may be used to pirate Masaan.