SC notice on plea to regulate online services on internet

KT NEWS SERVICE. Dated: 10/16/2020 10:51:23 AM

NEW DELHI, Oct 15: The Supreme Court on Thursday issued a notice to the Centre on a PIL filed by two lawyers, seeking constitution of an autonomous board to regulate and monitor the Internet-based OTT (Over The Top) and streaming services like Netflix, Hotstar, Zee5 and Amazon Prime and other digital media platforms across the country.
A Bench of Chief Justice Sharad Arvind Bobde and Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian ordered listing of the case after 50 days on December 4, on the petition expressing concern that some 40 digital platforms are misusing the fundamental right of expression to release the videos of filmmakers and artists without any clearance of their films and series from the censor board.
The PIL has been filed as a writ petition under Article 32 of the Constitution by Delhi-based lawyer Shashank Jha(26) and Varanasi-based lawyer A Purva Arhatia (28), making the Centre, the I&B Ministry and Worli Naka, Mumbai-based Internet and Mobile Association of India claiming to be a registered body of the Internet service providers in India.
The petitioners are concerned that the OTT and video streaming platforms are operating without a code of conduct, providing paid, ad-inclusive and free content across the country. They say there should be a board/institution/association to monitor and manage the contents available on Internet across India.
"Today, there is no law or autonomous body governing the digital contents that are made available to the public at large without any filter or screening," the petition said, pointing out that the I&B Ministry was supposed to issue a negative list of the non-negotiable prohibited contents to the OTT/Streaming service providers by the end of 2019, but no such list was released and its all to the OTT/Streaming platforms to come up with a self-regulatory body all did not serve any purpose.
The Mumbai-based association did announce the formation of a digital content complaint council (DCCC) to address government and user complaints related to the content on the streaming platforms. It also came up with a self-regulatory code, but the platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, TVF Play, Yupp TV, Hungama Play, YouTube (which has YouTube Red) and Facebook refused to sign it.
The petition also refers to the I&B Ministry giving the streaming platform players 100 days early March to set up an adjudicatory body and finalise a standard code so as to deal with the adult and political content posted on various OTT and Streaming platforms. However, the platforms did not comply even with this 100-day ultimatum.
It says the Centre and the I&B Ministry has laws and regulations for broadcasting films, TV serials, sports, parliamentary proceedings and Press, but there is no such law or regularisation of OTT/streaming platforms. It wants the Court to decide whether OTT/Streaming platforms should take a no-objection certificate before producing movies, series and trailers, regretting that the government has not done anything significant to regularise the OTT/Streaming platforms.
The petition says: "Almost none of the OTT/Streaming platforms, including Netflix, Amazon Prime, ZEE5 and Hotstar, have signed the self-regulation provided by the I&B Ministry since February." At the time of pandemic, the population consuming contents of these platforms has significantly increased and so urgent need to regulate and manage their contents.



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