IPRMENTLAW WEEKLY HIGHLIGHTS (February 26-March 03, 2024)

Article 370 banned in all Gulf countries in fresh dampener for Hindi film industry

Following reports of the Bollywood film ‘Article 370’ getting banned in Gulf countries emerged online earlier in the week, however subsequently new reports have clarified that the movie is facing no such hurdle.

Latest reports claimed that the Yami Gautam starrer is not facing any such presumed ‘ban’, but is awaiting certification in certain regions in the Gulf countries. Initial reports suggested that a ban was imposed on the movie in Gulf countries, but did not disclose any reason for the same.

This came as a surprise to many as it became the second Bollywood film this year to allegedly be barred from a release. In January, the Hrithik Roshan starrer ‘Fighter’ was banned from the Gulf countries, thus significantly affecting its total box office numbers.

The political drama, directed by Aditya Suhas Jambhale, delves into the revocation of Article 370 in Jammu & Kashmir. While awaiting certification in certain Gulf countries, the film continues to rake in the big bucks at the box office. The movie has minted an estimated Rs 30 crore in its first 5 days at the domestic box office. Makers express surprise and concern about the initial reports.

As the global film industry continues to grapple with issues of censorship and accessibility, prioritizing dialogue and collaboration in order to foster a more inclusive and vibrant cinematic landscape seems to be the need of the hour.

MeitY tweaks IT rules, surveillance data to be deleted within six months

The government has amended the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Interception, Monitoring and Decryption of Information) Rules to give the Union and the State home secretary the power to order deletion of the order for interception, monitoring or decryption and the actual information of a person under surveillance after six months.

Until now, the power to delete was with the security agency which had requested the surveillance either from the home ministry or a competent court.

The government has amended the IT Rules for interception, monitoring and decryption of information to give a “competent authority” the power to order deletion of records. In these cases, the home secretary, both at the state and the central level is the competent authority who can now ask for such surveillance orders and its records to be deleted.

The IT ministry has also amended the rules to declare computer resources related to the National Investigation Agency and their associated dependencies as critical information infrastructure.

According to IT ministry officials, the first amendment to the rules gives more clarification as the Home Ministry, both at the central and the state level, is the nodal agency to execute orders to intercept, monitor and decrypt information. The other amendment is to classify computer resources related to NIA as critical information infrastructure. This ensures that if a person tries to attack or steal information from these resources, they can face stricter than usual action.

“Once a resource is classified as critical information infrastructure, the level of protection accorded to it is more,” an official from IT Ministry said. The amendment will also mean that for anyone to access any kind of information from computer resources related to the NIA, a written authorisation will be needed.

For all cases in which no substantial outcome is gathered from such surveillance, the records are deleted within six months unless those electronic or non-electronic records are needed for ongoing investigations. These rules have been in place since 2009.

According to digital rights activists, the IT ministry’s amendment to the rules is an “unconstitutional notification”, which is in violation of “a series of judgments”. Digital rights body Internet Freedom Foundation said that empowering the home secretary, and in turn the home ministry to “destroy crucial evidence every six months through a procedure shrouded in secrecy” will hamper digital transparency. They have further went on to suggest that “Such destruction also allows the government to evade accountability vis-a-vis practices and legality of e-surveillance.”

SC issues contempt notice to Patanjali over ‘misleading advertisement’

The Supreme Court on 27th February, 2024 issued contempt notice against Patanjali Ayurved and its Managing Director Acharya Balkrishna for publishing advertisements of products in violation of the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954 and its Rules, despite an undertaking given to the court in November.

A Bench of Justices Hima Kohli and Ahsanuddin Amanullah said the company and Mr. Balakrishna had violated its assurance to the Supreme Court on November 21, 2023 to refrain from advertising or branding its products as “permanent relief” for diseases like obesity, blood pressure, asthma, etc, in violation of the 1954 Act.

Justice Amanullah asked the Centre, represented by Additional Solicitor General K.M. Nataraj, whether it had taken any action on the issue of Patanjali advertisements violating the law. Mr. Nataraj said he would file a “better” affidavit to answer the query of the bench. He said it was up to the States to implement the provisions of the Act.

During the hearing, the court pointed out that it had on November 21 directed the company to not make any “casual statements” to the print or electronic media about the efficacy of their medicinal products or indulge in any disparaging statements about other disciplines of medicine like allopathy.

The Bench directed the company and its Managing Director to file their replies to the contempt notice in two weeks. Meanwhile, the court restrained Patanjali from advertising or branding medicinal products as cures for diseases or disorders specified under the 1954 Act and its rules.

The court also cautioned the stakeholders or officers in Patanjali from making any statements adverse to any system of medicine in the print or electronic media in any form.

The Bench listed the case on March 19.

[Sheena Bora Murder Case] Bombay HC Paves Way For Netflix’s Docuseries Featuring Indrani Mukerjea, Dismisses CBI’s Plea

After the special CBI court rejected a CBI plea seeking a stay on the airing of a documentary titled ‘The Indrani Mukerjea Story: Buried Truth’.

The Bombay High Court Thursday dismissed a petition filed by CBI seeking to stay the release of the Netflix docuseries – “Buried Truth – The Indrani Mukerjea Story.” The docuseries features accused Indrani Mukerjea and five other witnesses cited by the CBI in the Sheena Bora murder trial. Mukerjea is the prime accused in her daughter – Sheena’s – murder. Last week the court had taken an undertaking from Netflix that it wouldn’t release the film till today. It had directed that a special screening be held for the CBI so that the prosecuting agency is not prejudiced in any way since the trial was ongoing.

The CBI argued that the docuseries would influence witnesses and impact the ongoing trial, especially since the makers have already admitted that five witnesses are interviewed in the docuseries.

Netflix had earlier said that allowing the agency to view the film or stalling its release would amount to pre-censorship, which is not permissible under the law. They further contended that the documentary only depicts what is already in the public domain and that the rights of the accused should take precedence over the prosecution’s rights.

the makers of the documentary, cited the case of Sunil Baghel vs State of Maharashtra (2018) wherein 9 independent journalists challenged the trial court’s gag order in the Sohrabuddin Encounter Case. Union Home Minister Amit Shah was notably an accused in the case.

However, with reasons to be recorded separately, the court dismissed the petition.

Reliance, Disney merger: What this means for India’s media-entertainment industry

Disney and Reliance have inked a deal to merge their TV and streaming assets, creating a $8.5 billion (more than Rs 70,000 crore) new entity, which will be led by Nita Ambani. On 28 February night, after months of speculation, Reliance and Disney announced that they had decided to merge their entertainment assets in India and create a media behemoth with more than 100 TV channels, two large streaming services – Disney+Hotstar and JioCinema – and a massive content library.

Reliance Industries will own 16.3 per cent of the merged entity, Viacom18 will own 46.8 per cent and Disney 36.8 per cent. It has also been announced that Reliance will infuse $1.4 billion in the merged entity, and Mukesh Ambani’s wife, Nita Ambani, will serve as the chairman of this new entity. Additionally, former Disney India chair Uday Shankar will serve as vice chair and strategic advisor.

“The JV will be one of the leading TV and digital streaming platforms for entertainment and sports content in India, bringing together iconic media assets across entertainment (eg, Colors, StarPlus, StarGOLD) and sports (eg Star Sports and Sports18),” the companies said in a joint statement. The companies further said, “The JV will have over 750 million viewers across India and will also cater to the Indian diaspora across the world.”

Additionally, the merged entity will be granted exclusive rights to distribute Disney films and productions in India, with a license to more than 30,000 Disney content assets, providing a full suite of entertainment options for the Indian consumer. The deal is most likely to be completed by the end of this year or the beginning of 2025.

As experts note, this Reliance-Disney deal — being touted as one of the biggest in the media and entertainment industry — will mark a significant shift in the media landscape of India. The merger of the Indian media business of Walt Disney with Reliance Industries’ Viacom18 will create a “significant dominant player”, which might reduce the bargaining power for media buying agencies, the country’s advertising industry has said. The behemoth, created post-merger may enable it to exert greater control over pricing and inventory of media rights and also influence over content, advertising industry leaders said.

According to the experts, the merged entity will almost have a monopoly in sports properties as it will collectively control 75-80 per cent of the Indian sports market, in both linear TV and digital platforms and may uptick the rates.

Third party cannot claim copyright on person’s life story unless he has already published a work about it: Punjab & Haryana High Court

The Punjab and Haryana High Court recently ruled that facts and events from the life of a person cannot be a subject matter of copyright unless the person claiming copyright violation has already accomplished/ created a work depicting the life story [T-Series v. Dreamline Reality Movies].

The Court was hearing an appeal filed by T-series against an injunction order of a Trial Court restraining them from releasing a movie, ‘Dear Jassi’.

The movie was based on the alleged ‘honor killing’ of a woman, whose marriage was not accepted by her family. An injunction suit was filed by the company which stated to have taken permission to make the movie from the husband of the deceased woman.

T-series argued that the movie was based on a book, which covered the couple’s story and they had purchased the right to make the film from the author of the book. Perusing Section 14 of the Copyright Act, which gives the provision for “Meaning of copyright”, Justice Rajbir Sehrawat said, “Mere existence of certain facts constituting a human conduct or chain of events signifying a human behaviour, as such, cannot be made a subject matter over which claim of copyright can be asserted by any person Mere existence of an idea or existence of fact or set of facts, per se, and without involving of talent, intelligence or effort by a person in converting the same into a work, by any means, cannot be stated to be a ‘work’ as required under the Copyright Act, qua which a person can assert his copyright.”

The Court clarified that in the present case, the life story of Sukhwinder Singh (husband of the woman who was allegedly murdered in honor killing), as such, cannot be the subject matter of copyright, though it may entitle her husband to some other protections under some other law and for some different purposes. The Court held that the husband did not have any right even to assign the copyright to the respondent-Company.

The Court further rejected the argument that the making of the movie would be a violation of the right to privacy of Sukhwinder Singh.

Read order here.

Government asks firms to take permission to launch AI models

The government has asked artificial intelligence platforms to seek its permission before launching an AI product in the country, Union Minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar said on March 2.

All intermediaries have been told to ensure compliance with the advisory, which was issued on March 1 evening,  with immediate effect and to submit an action taken-cum-status report to the ministry within 15 days.

The government has also advised that AI-generated content be labelled or embedded with a permanent unique metadata or identifier to be able to determine the creator or the first originator of any misinformation or a deepfake.

The moves come after a response from Google’s Gemini model to a question if Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a fascist generated controversy. The screenshots of the prompt on Modi shared on social media seemed to insinuate that the Gemini’s responses were leaning more towards labelling him as a fascist rather than in the cases of other world leaders.

In a statement, a Google spokesperson said, “We’ve worked quickly to address this issue. Gemini is built as a creativity and productivity tool and may not always be reliable, especially when it comes to responding to some prompts about current events, political topics, or evolving news. This is something that we’re constantly working on improving.”

Censor board directs makers to remove ‘Bharatha’ from title of Malayalam film ‘Oru Bharatha Sarkar Ulpannam’

The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has directed the makers of the upcoming Malayalam film Oru Bharatha Sarkar Ulpannam to remove the word ‘Bharatha’ from the title for the film to get permission for release.

Though the producers have the choice to go for an appeal against the decision or to approach the court, they have chosen to release the movie with the changed title of Oru Sarkar Ulpannam considering the financial losses that may be caused by postponement.

The film was earlier set to release on March 1, 2004. It was later postponed to March 8. CBFC officials did not have any issues with the content of the film, for which it has given a clean ‘U’ certificate, but insisted on a change in the title.

The original title which was cleared for the trailer has now been asked to be changed at a time when the producers have already printed 30,000 posters with the old title. The makers said that they will put black stickers over the word and use the posters as a mark of protest. As per them the film does not say anything critical against any government and in fact, portrays the National Population Control Mission’s programme in a positive light. They makers have made repeated requests to the regional committee (of CBFC) to reconsider the decision. However, despite convening multiple times to discuss the issue, the CBFC have stuck to their original stand.

IAMAI urges Google to refrain from delisting Indian apps from Play Store

Industry body IAMAI advised tech giant Google against removing and delisting any Indian apps from the Play Store over alleged non-compliance with its payments policy. This comes shortly after Google decided to remove multiple apps from the Google Play store.

In a statement, IAMAI said, “The affected members of IAMAI are of the view that a substantive hearing of the case is pending before the Supreme Court of India, and Google should not take any coercive action during the pendency of the case.”

On Friday, Google said that a string of well-established companies have refused to pay the service fee to the company despite multiple warnings. As per Google, the service fee is applicable for platforms that have in-app sales of digital goods.

Amid a war cry over Google Play billing policy by some prominent Indian startups and the recent launch of Indus Appstore, the Made-in-India app market challenger, Google in a blog post asserted that allowing a small group of developers to get differential treatment from the vast majority of developers who are paying their fair share creates an uneven playing field putting all other apps and games at a competitive disadvantage. On the Contrary, the app makers have accused google of abusing its dominant position as they have been left with no option but to accept their unreasonable terms of paying heavy commission fees

#EvilGoogle was the top Twitter trend on 01.03.2024 as several notable faces vented out their anger on the issue labelling the actions of delisting various apps by Google as a “dark day” for India Internet.

YRF, T-Series, Disney And Other Studios Attend Censor Board Meeting Aimed To Smoothen Certification Process

A high-profile meeting between the Censor Board and Bollywood bigwigs went underway on February 28, in Mumbai. The CBFC had invited Bollywood producers and directors to share suggestions on how the film certification process can be smoother. Present at the all-important meeting were Bhushan Kumar (TSeries), Neeraj Goswamy (Viacom18), Shibashish Sarkar (Producer’s Guild), Neeraj Joshi (Zee), Uday Singh (MPA), Lada Guruden Singh (Sony), Thomas D’Souza (PVR), and Abhay Sinha (IMPPA), among other esteemed names.

In a recent meeting led by Sanjay Jaju, Secretary of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, the CBFC sought feedback on the Draft Cinematograph (Certification) Rules, 2024. These rules, in line with the Cinematograph (Amendment) Act, 2023, are effective after March 1, 2024.

Notable changes include shifting the application process online, increasing female representation on the CBFC, and dividing parental guidance certificates into three age groups. While the certification categories remain the same (U, A, S), additional age-based labels will now be visible on UA certificates. The draft rules further call for the role of third parties to not be part of the certification process anymore. “Every application to certify a film for public exhibition shall be made on the online portal of the Board, hereinafter referred to as the e-cinepramaan portal,