On February 25, 2021, the Government of India introduced the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 (2021 Rules), under the Information Technology Act, 2000. Raghunath Ananthapur, Partner at Magnah Law Partners, and his associate Prithvika Prasad answer some of the commonly asked questions that many broadcasters and content owners across the world have when it comes to operating digital media and OTT in India.
What is the scope and application of the new rules?
The new rules applies to ‘’ and to ‘’ in relation to digital media.
Who are ‘Intermediaries’ and ‘Publishers’?
Intermediaries are widely defined to mean all kinds of online service providers, that, on behalf of another person, processes or provides any service in respect of digital content. The 2021 Rules introduce two new classes of intermediaries - Social Media Intermediaries (SMI) and Significant Social Media Intermediaries (SSMI). SMIs are intermediaries that primarily or solely enable online interaction between two or more users and allow them to create, upload, share, disseminate, modify or access information using its services, and SSMIs are those SMIs that have over 50 (fifty) lakh registered users in India. The 2021 Rules contain a set of compliance requirements applicable to all intermediaries in general, while also subjecting SSMIs to an additional set of compliances.
‘Publishers,’ on the other hand, can be either publishers of news and current affairs content or of online curated content (OCC).
A ‘publisher of OCC’ is one who plays a significant role in determining the OCC made available to users, and makes available a computer resource that allows users to access such content over the internet or computer networks, also includes such other such entities that are functionally similar to publishers of OCC. (Publisher).
However, an individual or user who is transmitting OCC in the course of a systematic business, professional or commercial activity is excluded from falling under the definition of such a publisher.
The 2021 Rules apply to:
What is Online Curated Content? Would OTT fall under its definition?
Yes, Over-the-Top content (OTT) would fall under the definition of OCC, and an OTT Platform would be considered as a Publisher of OCC, as OCC is defined as:
How is OCC to be classified?
OCC is to be classified based on its content, while adhering to the following guidelines:
What are the access-control mechanisms to be put in place?
Do publishers have any other obligations to comply with?
Publishers that have a physical presence in India have obligations with respect to furnishing details regarding their entity to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting within 30 (thirty) days of publication of the 2021 Rules or 30 (thirty) days from start of their operations in Indian territory or their coming into existence, publishing of a monthly compliance report, and grievance redressal.
How is the grievance redressal mechanism set up under the 2021 Rules?
Any person having a grievance regarding the content published by a publisher in relation to the Code of Ethics can make complaints through the established grievance redressal mechanism. Publishers are to appoint an India-based Grievance Officer to receive and acknowledge complaints within (24) twenty-four hours, and address them within 15 (fifteen) days of its receipt. They must also join a self-regulating body of publishers that is registered with the MIB. The self-regulating body is empowered to oversee publishers’ adherence to the Code of Ethics and also hear appeals from the decisions of the Grievance Officer. Grievance appeals arising from decisions taken by the Grievance Officer or the self-regulating body are to be heard by an Inter-Departmental Committee constituted as part of a governmental oversight mechanism.
For more information, write to:
Magnah Law Partners
This publication is for general information purpose and should not be construed as legal advice.