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Delhi HC dismisses petition seeking licensing and regulation of OTT platforms

The Delhi HC has dismissed a petition filed by Justice for Rights Foundation, a Delhi based NGO, which asked for the regulation of online streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hotstar, reports The Indian Express. The HC said that online streaming platforms did not need to acquire a license to operate. The Centre said that it did not regulate this category of companies.

  • Justice for Rights’ argument was that non-regulation was letting platforms stream content full of “vulgarity, religiously forbidden and morally unethical.”
  • The plea also sought to remove “vulgar and sexually explicit” content from these platforms.
  • Chief Justice Rajendra Menon dismissed the plea stating that this was not a public interest case.

The PIL was filed in October 2018 and alleged that online streaming platforms also violated the Indian Penal code (IPC) and the Information Technology Act, and sought to remove “legally restricted” content with immediate effect. It asked for direction from the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, and the Ministry of Telecom to frame guidelines to regulate the platforms and the content they broadcasted.

Justice for Rights’ lawyer Harpreet Hora told Inc42 that its petition dealt with not just content but also licensing, regulation and certification of OTT platforms. “Our basic contention is that if somebody is doing business in my country, they should be licensed or regulated,” he told the publication. The NGO has also filed a police complaint.

Sacred Games: MeitY for freedom of expression

In December last year, the Ministry of Electronics, Information and Technology (MeitY) told the Delhi High Court that the ministry cannot ask Netflix to remove the alleged objectionable reference to former PM Rajiv Gandhi in the Sacred Games series, citing freedom of expression from the Indian Constitution. In his petition, advocate Nikhil Bhalla had requested the court to issue guidelines for regulating OTT providers and set up a grievance redressal mechanisms for platforms in India.

IAMAI’s code for self regulating content

Last month, the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) drafted a code of self-regulation for video streaming OTT platforms. The document, called ‘Code of Best Practices for Online Curated Content Providers’, disallows OTT platforms from streaming the following kind of content:

  • content banned by Indian courts
  • content disrespecting the national emblem
  • content which outrages religious sentiments
  • content which promotes violence against the states or terrorism
  • sexual acts by children

Intermediary Liability: An Indian story

While these cases are ongoing, India’s MeitY has framed new rules for intermediaries which deal with traceability, handing information, registration, pulling down unlawful content etc. It has met with several concerns from international companies (see 1, 2 and 3 and an opposing POV) who say that the existence of these updated draft rules threaten free speech and impose severe restrictions. (Read more here.)

Also, in the offline world:


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