New intermediary guidelines put a spanner in telcos’ OTT platform plans

Reliance Jio, and , who are aiming to go big on digital services through their own over the top (OTT) platforms, now face another regulatory oversight – the latest social intermediary guidelines. The regulations come at a time when the trio are banking on their digital offerings via OTT platforms to generate additional revenue from millions of their subscribers, by driving up data consumption.

“We are studying the regulations…the telcos with value added services will come under the OTT regulations,” said a senior executive in one of the three telcos. Another senior executive at a second operator confirmed the same, adding their legal teams are still going through the revised intermediary guidelines under Section 79 of the Information Technology Act, announced Thursday.

The revised guidelines seek to ensure that OTT players such as video streaming service providers and social media apps such as Twitter and WhatsApp are more accountable for the content on their platforms while complying with local laws and government orders.

But telcos, who are already regulated under the Indian Telegraph Act, have also been launching their own apps. For example, Jio streams content via apps like Jio Cinema, Jio TV, while Airtel does it through Airtel Xstream while Vodafone Idea does it through Vi Movies and TV, etc. Some of the major OTT streaming service providers include Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, MX Player.

Also, since the carriers stream news like a curated site, they are checking if there is any other guideline like those enforced on a news sites or publishers of online curated news that they will fall under.

READ  Apple will produce 1 million face shields per week for medical workers

“The telecom companies in India who either enable transmission of news and current affairs or who publish online curated content will need to comply with Part III (code of ethics, etc.) of the new Rules,” said Nirupam Lodha, Partner, L&L Partners, who specialises in IP and IT Laws.

Part III of the new guidelines are the requirements enforced upon both news and OTT players wherein the government has put in place a three-tier redressal system, with the Information and Broadcasting ministry exercising complete oversight over the process. An independent self-regulatory body headed by a retired high court or Supreme Court judge will decide on matters related to content, as per the new mechanism.

So, while the three telcos did not officially comment, they may seek more clarity on if they fall under more than one categories and if so then what are the rules they have to adhere to.

“Intermediary liabilities will impact the telcos since they are amongst the largest intermediaries in the country. Even though they are not social media intermediaries, they will get impacted,” said Nikhil Pahwa, data privacy and net neutrality activist. “Then comes their value-added service where if they are news aggregators or content sharing platforms or streaming platforms, then they come under the steaming and news guidelines”.

The telecom operators are also consulting with their legal teams on the rules they have to follow if they do not create content but curate them. Legal experts have said this also brings in the issue of licensing since if the telcos buy the licenses and therefore own the rights of the content, do they have to show the certifications and ratings as per the new guidelines, even if they have not produced it.

READ  Twitter bans ex-Trump aide Steve Bannon for encouraging violence against Anthony Fauci

“The telecom operators may find it less onerous to comply with the new Rules and may feel that burden of compliance, especially with respect to ‘significant social media intermediaries’ has not been extended towards them,” said Rahul Goel, Partner, AnantLaw. “Compliance with respect to the content which is hosted on their own apps, websites and/ or platforms, will be their own responsibility,” he added.


Leave a Reply

This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.