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Broadcasting, Films and the 2011 Indian Intermediary Guidelines

A Quick Note:

The (largely infamous) Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules, 2011, primarily prohibit content which is harmful, harassing, blasphemous, defamatory, obscene, pornographic, paedophilic, libellous, invasive of others' privacy, hateful, ethnically objectionable, disparaging, encouraging money laundering/gambling, or unlawful in any manner/opposed to any law for the time being in force – or which is threatening to the unity, integrity, defence security, sovereignty of the country – or which infringes any IP right.

Such content is, for the most part, illegal beyond the Internet as well as on it, as a compilation of Indian content laws would show.

In fact, the case of the 2011 IT Act Rules doesn’t appear to be a case where Internet content has been specifically ‘targeted’. Looking at the Rules, from a content point of view, it appears that they have been drafted to virtually mirror regulations with regard to other forms of content: TV programmes and films. (See: Rule 6 of the Cable Television Networks Rules, 1994, and the Guidelines for Certification of Films for Public Exhibition under the 1952 Cinematograph Act.)

Such mirroring, obviously, isn’t especially practical given the dynamics of the Internet, and those of online interaction especially on social media sites. However, the promulgation of the 2011 IT Act Rules could well be about using a tried-and-tested (albeit imperfect) formula such as the one used in the realms of broadcasting and cinematography.

There is a good chance that the 2011 IT Act Rules are simply the product of assuming that the dynamics which apply to regulating limited content for broadcast (including film content) can also be reasonably applied to virtually unlimited online content (including user-generated content). The assumption though, if at all it was being made by those who drafted the 2011 IT Act Rules, appears challengeable, to say the least.

(This post is by Nandita Saikia and was first published at Indian Copyright.)