All About The Legal Regulations For OTT Platforms

The screen catches the light but the legal regulations make a clear path for the screen to run effectively. The new OTT platforms regulations have made a clear pathway for the OTT platform providers to take care of while publishing any content over the screens of OTTs. People are more pr less aware of what OTT means and they often use it in their day-to-day life. But little did laymen are aware of what are legal guidelines working behind the screen. The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 

2021 by the Government of India has made a clear pathway for the OTT platforms to function efficiently without hurting the belief system, religion, and thought of different sections of the society.  

Factors Responsible For New Rules

The rules are structured by the Central Government in the exercise of powers under section 87 (2) of the IT (Information Technology) Act, 2000, and in supersession of the earlier IT Rules 2011. The February guidelines are framed in 3 parts in which part 1 deals with the definitions of the terms in legal language, part 2 deals with various regulations of social media intermediaries (administered by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology) and part 3 provides the Code Of Ethics for over the top platforms in India (administered by Ministry of Information and Broadcasting). Over-the-top platforms are referred to as Online Content Curated Platforms in the given rules.

The rules are by and large framed due to numerous reasons listed below:

  • Rapid Growth of OTT Platforms: Extensive spread of the internet and smartphones leads to a huge hike in the user base on the OTT platforms. As per the report published by Statista, OTT platforms are going to reach 509.7 million users by 2026. 
  • Ignorance Of Self-Regulations: Despite the internal mechanisms to address inappropriate and illegal content, the digital platforms were incompetent to address major issues on their own. 
  • Lack Of Institutional Mechanisms: Before this rule of 2021, there was no dedicated law or autonomous body to monitor the content in the digital arena. Above all, there were no dedicated mechanisms for complaining and redressal for any content on the OTT platforms. 

Major Guidelines Related To OTT Platforms

The IT (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021 establish a soft-touch self-regulatory architecture with a Code of Ethics and three-tier grievance redressal mechanisms for OTT platforms. All these have been notified under section 87 of the Information Technology Act. 

The rule prescribes certain Code of Ethics is followed by OTT platforms that are listed below:

  • OTT platforms or online curated content as used in the rule would self-classify their content into five different age-based categories that have been classified based on the theme, violence, drug and substance abuse, nudity, etc. The age-based classification follows as:

U (Universal)

U/A 7+

U/A 13+

U/A 16+

A (Adult) 

  • The OTT platforms would display the classification rating specific to various programs with their content description. All this has to be followed by the advisory on viewer discretion enabling the viewers to make an informed decision before diving into the content. 
  • The OTT platforms should put reliable verification mechanisms for “A” category content and would require parental locks for U/A 13+ category content. 
  • The platform should try to increase the accessibility of OTT platforms for persons with disabilities. 

Principles To Be Taken Care By OTT Platforms

There are certain principles that any OTT platform should take care of. The general principles to be followed are:

  • OTT platforms should not publish/transmit/show any content which is restricted under any law or by any court of the nation
  • The platform should take into consideration India’s diversity including multi-religious and multi-racial contexts and should exercise caution while featuring any belief, practice, or views of religious or racial groups. 
  • OTTs should consider the sovereignty, integrity, and security of the nation whenever publishing, featuring, exhibiting any content over the platform. 

The rules and regulations framed under the act are the results of the various mishaps that had taken place in the past years and had made an issue for society. These are the efforts for ensuring a good balance between technological advancements and legal developments in the nation. It will certainly help in making more informed viewers and making a more accessible platform for different sections of society.

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