The bill was passed by a voice vote after a brief discussion. The opposition staged a walkout during the introduction of the bill over its demand for a discussion on the situation in ethnic strife-torn Manipur.
The bill will now go to Lok Sabha for its nod.
The Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill-2023 aims to curb piracy to help the film industry and simplify licensing procedures.
The government has proposed a maximum three-year jail term and a fine up to five per cent of the production cost of a film for those involved in making pirated copies of movies.
The bill also proposes to allow the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) to grant certificate to films with perpetual validity by doing away with the current 10-year validity period.
It seeks to introduce three age-based certifications under ‘UA’ category, namely ‘UA 7+’, ‘UA 13+’ and ‘UA 16+’, and also to empower the CBFC to sanction a film with a separate certificate for its exhibition on television or other media.
In a bid to curb film piracy, the bill seeks to introduce new sections in the Cinematograph Act with provisions to prohibit unauthorised recording of films (section 6AA) and their exhibition (section 6AB).
The stringent new provision 6AA in the bill also prohibits recording of a film or any part thereof with the sole purpose of using the recording in the same device.
Thakur said that film piracy is like cancer and this bill will try to root it out.
The film industry is facing a loss of Rs 20,000 crore annually because of piracy.
“The bill has been brought to stop the loss of Rs 20,000 crore which occurs due to piracy. The legislation also takes care of the long-standing demand of the film industry,” he said.
He further said the bill leads to ease of doing business and also acts against those who indulge in piracy.
Thakur said the film industry has a soft power and the government will take steps to promote it further by providing all the required facilities.
Now Indian content is watched across the globe – from Russia, the US and China to the Middle East countries – he said.
“India being a country of storytellers, we have all the ingredients to become the content hub of the world. India should emerge as the content hub of the world,” he said.
In some regions, especially in the south, the use of technology by the industry has expanded.
“Now post-production work of big films is done in India. AVGC sector is growing,” he said, adding, “Overall, we should look at the film industry as an opportunity.”
To promote the AVGC sector, the government will soon open institutes to skill the people.
Replying to a member’s query on the functioning of CBFC, Thakur said it is an autonomous body and after this bill, the government would not have any revision power.
“We want it to remain autonomous,” he said. Thakur added that for any revision of the decision, all CBFC five members in the panel would be new.
Thakur said India has the second oldest film industry and is the largest film producer.
Replying to a concern raised by a member over unequal distribution of money between actors and other workers, the minister said it should be left to the industry to deal with the issue.
“Let’s leave a few things for the industry. Let’s not restrict it…,” he said.
The minister introduced the Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill after Rajya Sabha reassembled after being adjourned twice in the pre-lunch session amid continuous sloganeering by members of both treasury benches and the opposition.
While introducing the bill, Thakur said there were three main reasons for bringing it — unauthorised recording, simplification of licensing procedure and harmonisation with the judgements of high courts and the Supreme Court.
He said that technological development has aided piracy.
“In this age of the internet there has been a rise in the misuse of these devices giving a boost to piracy. The bill aims to curb it,” he said.
Amid sloganeering by the opposition members who demanded a discussion on the Manipur issue, the minister said the proposed legislation is an important one considering the fact that the last major amendment of the Cinematograph Act, 1952 was in 1984.
Almost four decades have passed and there have been a lot of technological developments, viewership of films has gone up and the standing of Indian films on the global stage has risen, he said.
Today India is the biggest film producing country in the world, Thakur said, adding “The Elephant Whisperers” and “RRR” have made waves across the world and brought laurels to the country by winning the Oscars.
“When we are bringing an amendment after 40 years in a big way, after witnessing the behaviour of the opposition it seems that they are neither in favour of the film industry nor for the emergence of India as a soft power through films,” he asserted.
This bill is not restricted to only a few producers or directors, it will bring a sea change in the lives of all those who are involved in the film industry – from spotboys, makeup and stunt artistes to choreographers, light and sound artistes, engineers – he said.
“Piracy is such a termite that has been eating the film industry, taking away the livelihoods of those in the industry,” Thakur said and alleged that when he was raising such important issues of the film industry, the opposition was trying to take away the rights of the people of the industry.
Thakur also said the bill has also addressed the impact that the now abolished Articles 370 and 35A of the Constitution used to have on the Cinematograph Act, 1952, as a result of which artistes from Jammu and Kashmir will benefit.
Taking part in the discussion on the bill, Prashanta Nanda (BJD), Dhanajay Bhimrao Mahadik (BJP), Pabitra Margherita (BJP), S Niranjan Reddy (YSRCP), Sonal Mansingh (BJP), Radha Mohan Das Agrawal (BJP), M Thambidurai (AIADMK) and Ashok Bajpai (BJP) supported the proposed legislation.
Kavita Patidar, Chandraprabha, Ajay Paratp Singh, GVL Narasimha Rao and Baburam Nishad of the BJP also supported the bill.
BJP MP and former Tripura chief minister Biplab Kumar Deb said he came from the land of legendary music directors and singers Sachin Dev Burman and Rahul Dev Burman as he extended his support to the bill.
G K Vasan of the Tamil Maanila Congress (Moopanar) supported the bill and said it will go a very long way in helping the film industry as it protects them from piracy, and unauthorised recording and deals with issues such as simple licensing, lifelong renewals and censorship.
Kanakmedala Ravindra Kumar of the TDP said the Telugu film industry is the second largest in the country and urged the government to take necessary steps to promote it. It is now getting worldwide fame after an Oscar award for the song “Naatu Naatu” from the film “RRR”, he said.