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Dec. 13, 2020   •   Madri Chandak

Profile of the Author: Iffla Firdous is a 4th Year Law student from the School of Law, University of Kashmir.

What are OTT Platforms?

Over-the-Top (OTP) platforms are accessible content organization over the internet for users using various devices anytime, either without any cost or after paying a subscription fee to the associating service provider. Over the Top TV (OTT) has seen tremendous advancement in the past couple of years. The OTT has become by and large the most used entertainment medium in the most recent time. The OTT is a nonlinear model whereby recorded substances of various kinds can be accessed after the purchase with the service provided. India has very nearly 170 million OTT Platform customers.

These OTT platforms are getting considerable attention because of progress in innovation and the favored utilization of small screens, for example, phones, laptops, and tablets. These services have represented genuine competition and fight for legacy services. The OTT market's overall development and the wide distribution of these services, and stiff and inflexible competition to customary transmission services have made controllers watchful everywhere globally. The OTT players in India were not liable to any set of principles. Additionally, as a controller, it turns into a duty to give a level battleground to all. Since OTT platforms seek a similar promotion or membership income as the authorized administrators, it is primarily essential that such services be managed at par with various other services along these lines.

Why will OTT Platforms be regulated?

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic can be seen on every single business and industry. While most of the companies experienced a precipitous fall some businesses were affected positively. Online games, video conferencing services, and Over the Top (OTT) platforms such as Netflix, Hotstar, Prime Video, online meeting platforms experienced a boom. Indian society is diverse in the context of religion, cultures, languages, and much more. The Internet is becoming progressively pervasive and can be utilized to spread disinformation, propaganda, or create tensions purposely. Additionally, it is unexpected that web stages are confronting phenomenal strain to consent to state laws to control content. Indeed, online stages are liable to contradicting requests: one asking them to altogether police the content presented on their platforms to ensure the regard of public laws, and the other practicing proactive substance observing, inspired by a paranoid fear of common negative liberties.

Additionally, given that the current non-obligation systems were first settled for 'latent' middle people, the dread of a possible loss of assurance may disincentivize platforms from accepting more obligations. Content regulation has been essential to maintaining secularism in India. There are both benefits as well as challenges associated with OTT platforms.

Growing OTT platforms put into limelight the regulation of their content. Existing laws and the Central Board of Film Certification certifies range before their release for general masses to watch, but no such specific framework existed for OTT platforms. In 2013, TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) focused on the absence of OTT regulations and issued a consultation paper in 2015. In 2018, TRAI invited comments on the subject from OTT stakeholders. In 2018, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting clearly stated they had no power to censor OTT Platform content.

Regulations on OTT platforms

Indians are consuming online content more than ever before. There are 17 crore plus OTT platform users in India. The estimate is that video streaming will become a 4000 crore rupee market in India by 2025. How can such an enormous market remain unregulated? There are other reasons why regulation is needed to create a level playing field. Print and broadcast media in India is regulated with specific laws in place, the Information Technology Act of 2000 the criminal, the code of Criminal Procedure 1973, and the cable television networks Regulation Act, 1995, plus with the self-regulatory bodies the channels are mandated not to show dead bodies on air, no smoking, no scenes of violence, and much more. Of course, media have crossed this line, but most try to abide by the law, but no such rules existed for online platforms. They self certify their content, which is why we say a level playing field is needed, and as online platforms are also creating content, why should the rules bound some and others to have a free run. Censor board regulates and certifies movies that are in theatres, but there's no such third-party certification, or at least online. Consumers deserve responsibly produced content after paying a hefty subscription fee.

Indian OTT platforms are now subject to government regulation; they will be regulated by India's I&B or Information and Broadcasting ministry. These regulations do not apply only to the OTT platforms but also apply to online news platforms, social media platforms, and other content on online platforms. There was no law or autonomous body to govern digital content in India. OTT players signed a call to control the content on their platform, but that was self-regulation.

President of India passed the order to amend the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules,1961, which includes two new subsections

  1. Films and Audio-Visual programs made available by online content providers, and
  2. News and current affairs content on online platforms.

Laws-in-place to regulate content

Article 19(1) of the Constitution of India provides for freedom of speech, and Article 19(2) states that the privilege can be taken away by imposing reasonable restrictions which are in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or concerning contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offense. Such reasonable restrictions apply even to an OTT platform if the content shown on such OTT media contradicts such laws.

Indian Penal Code, 1860 IPC criminalizes

(i) the sale or distribution of obscene literary works;

(ii) the deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings;

(iii) the acts of defamation and dissemination of any defamatory content; and

(iv) penalizes anybody who insults or exhibits any object that insults any woman's modesty or intrudes on her privacy.

Protection of Children from Sexual Acts, 2012 – penalizes child pornography.

Information and Technology Act, 2000 ("IT") – penalizes publishing or transmitting obscene material, sexually explicit material, and material depicting children in sexually explicit acts in electronic form. Further, the Central Government has been empowered to issue directions to block public access to any information and punish any action that violates any person's privacy. The IT Act, 2000 also allows the government and the courts to direct the internet service providers, on whose network users access the OTT streaming websites, to either block or take-down movies available on such streaming websites that they consider objectionable.

The OTT platforms even opted for the self-regulation code in 2019 signed by major OTT players in India, which laid down a specific framework that was updated and reintroduced in 2020. OTT platforms which remained self-censored will now come under censorship by the I&B Ministry’s jurisdiction.


It is sure that with the presence of the 'OTT regulations,' the exchange between media substance and ownership, platforms will experience tremendous unsettling influence. Some online players have already started expressing their concerns. OTT platforms' regulatory structure has been a work-in-progress for around ten years, and doubtlessly would have a few openings to fill in. Having discussed directing on the web content, it is expected that an excessive amount of oversight/guideline could influence the creative freedom of the substance journalists/makers and that this will influence the viewership of OTT stages.

Disclaimer: This article is an original submission of the Author. Niti Manthan does not hold any liability arising out of this article. Kindly refer to our Terms of use or write to us in case of any concerns.


  1. Censorship in OTT Platforms: The Necessity - Bhagavatula Naga Sai Sriram
  2. How to regulate OTT streaming services in India - Shubhangi Heda
  3. OTT services in India - U K Srivastava

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