Should Netflix, Amazon & Co be Regulated? SC Asks Centre to Reply

The Supreme Court, on Friday, 10 May, issued notice to the center in a petition seeking to regulate online streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hotstar among others.

A bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna, heard the petition filed by an NGO Justice for Rights Foundation which claimed that the streaming platforms were not only displaying unlicensed and unregulated content but were running without any guidelines to govern their practices.

The NGO had filed the appeal against the decision of the Delhi High Court which had dismissed its PIL in February. According to Bar & Bench, a two-judge bench had observed that since the law did not require these platforms to acquire a license, it cannot direct them to get one.

In dismissing the plea, the Delhi High Court was informed by the Centre that the streaming platforms neither required a license from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting nor was it regulating the platforms. Even the Ministry of Law and Justice had said that the platforms fell outside its jurisdiction.

Also Read: How Will Netflix, Hotstar & Co Impose Vague Self-Censorship Code?

Similar Plea Pending in Karnataka HC

In March, the Karnataka High Court had issued notice in a similar petition filed by one Padmanabh Shankar who had sought to bring streaming platforms within a legislative framework.

Claiming that these platforms often depict vulgar and unregulated content, he had appealed for them to be brought under the Indian Cinematograph Act, 1952. The case is pending before the Karnataka High Court.

Self Regulation Code Also Proposed in Jan

Moreover, in yet another move to impose some kind of regulation, a self-regulation mechanism was proposed by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) in January.

Within this voluntary code, Netlix, Hotstar and a host of other popular video-streaming platforms are expected to exercise self-censorship of their content.

What does this mean?

This means that many of our favourite apps and services have signed on to a voluntary code called ‘Code of Best Practices for Online Curated Content Providers’. Developed by IAMAI, the code, intended to act as “guiding principles”, prescribes a form of “industry best practices” that OTT platforms are expected to adhere to.

So, what kind of prohibited content does this code advocate?

  • Disrespecting the national emblem or national flag
  • Children in real or simulated sexual activities
  • Outraging religious sentiments
  • Promoting terrorism
  • Content banned from distribution or exhibition

The Code, however, was criticised for an over-broad set of demands, its vague language as well as a quasi-censorship approach to regulation.

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