Need for urgent steps on a fresh petition for censorship of Online Video Streaming websites.

Here We Bleep(ing) Go Again

  • Background: The Delhi High Court dismissed a Public Interest Litigation on February 8, 2019 by the Justice For Rights Foundation.  A similar PIL has been filed with the Karnataka High Court on February 2, 2019 requesting the Government to prescribe suitable legislation to regulate viewing content on online streaming services.
  • Need for consistency: The Delhi High Court in its judgement reinforced the adequacy of the Information Technology Act. We wrote to the Ministry of Broadcasting and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology to ensure steps are taken to similar stance in relevant cases.

Background

Recently, the Hon'ble High Court of Delhi was approached by the Justice for Rights Foundation praying for separate guidelines on online streaming content (Read here for more) where the Court took a positive stand in maintaining the sufficiency of the Information Technology Act, 2000. However, in yet another Public Interest Litigation, the Karnataka High Court has served notice in a petition approached before it, seeking regulation of online video streaming services (Find the order here). This petition has a slight twist to it.

If You Can't Beat Them, Join Them

While the attempt to create new guidelines took a bit of a nose-dive, what better way than to slyly use existing legislation to achieve the same goal. Unlike the case in the Delhi High Court, this petition additionally desires to include online streaming within the ambit of what is known as the Cinematograph Act, 1952. As a result, this would render it as 'public exhibition', requiring such content to be certified; regulated by suitable legislation with an appropriate Board through sanction. This would potentially function much like the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) likely to further extend its moral policing habits. It's highly unlikely that anyone wants a Pahlaj Nihalani regime on the internet.

However, the basic premise behind this petition lies in the claim that there is a lack of legislative framework in the regulation of online viewing content. Keeping this in mind however, the Delhi High Court has rightly enforced the adequacy of the Information Technology Act, 2000 in governing content and the platform, establishing that there is no need for separate guidelines (Read the Order here).

We wrote to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology on February 20, 2019 suggesting steps in ensuring consistency in such cases in all courts (Read our letter here). Once again, we approach their offices requesting a press release on the order passed by the High Court of Delhi to ensure the positive stand receives greater awareness amongst both the Courts and the general public. We hope the Karnataka High Court will consider this to maintain such consistency in the not only the protecting of our right to freedom of speech and expression but also in the self sufficiency of Information Technology Act.

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  • Our Work: We are a civil liberties advocacy organisation focusing on technology and fundamental rights. Working across the spectrum -- with expertise in free speech, digital surveillance and privacy, net neutrality and innovation -- we champion human freedom in the digital space. Our aim is to ensure that people in the world's largest democracy are able to use technology with liberty and justice guaranteed under the Constitution of India.
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