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By: Sarabpreet Singh, Advocate

The acronym OTT stands for Over-the-Top. This convenient little term explains the new delivery method of film and TV content over the internet whenever we want, across many different devices, without the need for traditional broadcast,
cable, or satellite pay-TV providers. In simple terms, OTT streaming means paying an internet provider, like Xfinity, for internet access to watch Netflix, without paying for cable TV.


However, till date, there is no legal or statutory body or law governing the OTT Platforms. But over the period of time, various issues have arisen relating to the contents, language, or scenes that are being shown on such platforms. The issues were dealt by the Hon’ble Apex court and various High Courts of India and various guidelines have been laid down time to time to which such OTT platforms have to adhere.

The judgments in which such guidelines have been laid down are as follows:

Justice for Rights Foundation V. Union of India

Amazon Prime Video India Originals V. Union of India

As per the guidelines laid down in the aforesaid judgements following are the legal compliances that OTT Platforms need to comply with:

1. Information and Technology Act Compliance:

  • OTT Platforms should be compliant of Rule 3(1)(b) of the Information Technology Rules which means it is important to keep in mind that the users should be aware of the nature of the content and then make informed choices with the content they put out. OTT platforms and apps need to classify the content they offer into  different age categories Universal, Adult and Parental Guidance,  etc., and then make it available to the viewer.
  • The OTT platforms have to classify the content based on its theme, type, tone, impact, and targeted age of the audience it is suitable for. The guidelines prescribed appropriate self-classification of the  shows, instead of directing any censorship. It says that the streaming  platforms will have to rate content in three categories, namely, U- Universal, U/A, and A- Adult.
    • The “U” category denotes that it is appropriate for all age groups.
    • The “U/A” category has been further subdivided into U/A – General, which is acceptable for everybody but may contain scenes not suited for young children; U/A – 7+, which is suitable for 7 years and above; U/A – 13+, and U/A – 16+. Only those above the age of  18 can view an A-rated film or television show. Nudity in shows and  movies that does not have a sexual context can be classified U/A  16+.
  • It should further classify on the basis of themes of violence, nudity, sex, language, drug or substance abuse, and horror, and the classification details are enumerated In Schedule Part II.
  • To help users make informed choices, all the OTT platforms shall  rate their content and add a content descriptor to inform the audience  about the theme. The content that is rated ‘A’ shall have an age  verification system and the user won’t be able to access any ‘A’ rated  content without submitting the verification. There are certain rules  that focus on increasing inclusivity like the content should be  accessible to a person with a disability. If the rules are not complied  by the OTT platforms or any publisher, then they shall be liable as  provided under such law which has been contravened (Rule 9 of IT  Rules).

2. Grievance Redressal Mechanism:

  • Rule 3(2) of the Information Technology Rules states that the OTT  platforms and apps need to setup a grievance redressal mechanism  to look after the complaints and make sure the content shown on  these platforms are not in violation of the law in any manner. The  platforms must register their grievance redressal mechanism with the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB). They are also  required to appoint a Chief Grievance Officer, who will be  responsible for addressing user complaints and collaborating with  law enforcement agencies. 
  • The OTT platforms shall form a grievance redressal mechanism which shall be headed by the Grievance Officer based in India as per Rule 11 of the IT Rules. The contact details of the officer and the  procedure need to be published on its website. A grievance can be  filed by anybody who thinks the Code has been not complied with  while publishing content. The decision has to be taken within 15  days from the day it was received. If it is not communicated as per  the timeline, then it will be escalated to the self-regulating body  under Rule 12 of IT Rules.

3. Furnishing Information and Compliance report:

  • As per The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and  Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 (hereinafter referred to as  the “IT Rules”) were notified by the Central Government on  25.02.2021. The OTT platforms have to submit all the details of its  entity along with the relevant documents to the Ministry of  Information and Broadcasting. This shall help the ministry for  enabling communication and coordination with the entity. The  content platform shall also publish a monthly compliance report that  contains all the grievances received and what actions were taken by  the entity to resolve it.

4. Parental Lock:

  • Rule 3(4) of the Information Technology Rules states that the OTT platforms and apps need to provide parental locks for content that is classified in the Adult Category. This is to ensure that children  do not access such content under the restricted category.