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This article has been written by A. Thiruthi. The article has been edited by Khushi Sharma (Trainee Associate, Blog iPleaders) and Vanshika Kapoor (Senior Managing Editor, Blog iPleaders).

Introduction

Media is an enthralling universe. It is always enticing and equally demanding, whether on large displays or with superstars. The media’s power is strong enough to not only shape young minds and hearts but also to elicit a massive clamour among the population in the event of discontent. Media law has recently arisen as a massive field of study for young advocates. According to IBEF’s analysis, the Indian media and entertainment sector is predicted to develop at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 13.9% from US$ 19.59 billion in 2016 to US$ 37.55 billion in 2021, above the global average of 4.2 percent. Media is no longer limited to radio and television. There is theatre, cinema, social media, YouTube, Netflix, and a plethora of new application-based video-streaming platforms. Recent instances, particularly those involving the Film Certification Board (CBFC), demonstrate that the resources necessary to meet the demands associated with such specialisation in media law are extremely rare.

With fewer than two three well-known companies in this arena and less than a handful of lawyers specialising in media law, the field offers a wealth of options and competitive compensation. With over 15 lakh practising lawyers, the majority of whom work in mediocre or low-wage jobs, media law firms pay above-average salaries, whereas media houses pay a living wage.

Media Law

Media law is the body of law that regulates the production and use of media. Media law can apply to a wide variety of media types, including broadcast television, the internet, and print media. Media law practice encompasses all legal issues that may arise during the production or consumption of various forms of media. What can be written and aired is governed by media law. Intellectual property law is also a part of this field of law. For example copyright and ownership. The law of the media is separated into groups based on the sorts of activities that each have their own set of regulations, norms, case law, and so on.

Pros of Media Law Study

The benefits of media law study are described as follows:

  1. “Media law” encompasses a variety of legal disciplines, making it an ideal introduction to the law system for journalists and practitioners, and a fertile arena for law students to revise and practise.
  2. Media law provides an excellent opportunity to examine society’s numerous conflicting rights and interests, as the rights to free expression, information, and a free press compete with other critical rights such as reputation, a fair trial, privacy, confidentiality, intellectual property, and national security, as well as the right to be free of discrimination in all its forms.
  3. It is an excellent illustration of the news media’s position in the world’s diverse political systems, as governments choose different points at which free expression should be restricted. One should discover that freedom of expression exists on a continuum, with some nations having less limitations and others having worrying levels of repression.
  4. Just as certain governments and individuals may shackle truth, media law sheds light on so-called ‘fake news’ and ‘false news’ by explaining how truthful and reasonable reporting and publishing can receive specific safeguards and how courts can reward ethical research and reporting.
  5. Media law cases are frequently fascinating depictions of human faults, egos, and temptations, and occasionally resemble Shakespearean tragedies in which good reporting exposes power abuse.
  6. Problem-based media law education provides realistic insight into how a thorny legal scenario could arise and guides you through the process of determining a plan of action after analysing the legal risks. In some countries, robust and genuine journalism can still be produced within the confines of the law.
  7. Instances and reforms affecting media law are frequently in the news, giving importance and factual accuracy to one’s study as we observe real-world cases involving real persons disputed in courts and covered by the news media.
  8. Lastly, as all laws need to be changed, and as a result, one can get involved in the ongoing process of media legal reform. One will get an understanding of the reform process, have access to past reform proposals, and have the ability to propose your own reforms in fields of interest. 

Legislations

India’s media business has grown at an astonishing rate within the last few years. The Indian government has facilitated the expansion of this business by liberalising and lowering entry barriers for international investors, most recently with the liberalisation of broadcasting sector standards. Numerous facets of the industry have seen extraordinary improvements and the use of cutting-edge technologies to stay current. The application of technologies has been broadened to all stages of content development, digitization, and globalisation. This sector has grown steadily and continues to do so now. The laws that govern the media industry and the worlds of television, cinema, radio, music, and online advertising all fall under the purview of media law. The governing processes and legal frameworks that control the media industry’s growth in India are governed by our media law. Media law generally comprises business, financial, intellectual property, public relations, and privacy rules.

Numerous Acts have been established within India during the years to address the legal challenges confronting the media business:

1. Press and Registration Books Act, 1867This Act was implemented to regulate printing presses and periodicals for the purpose of preserving and registering books. It was a watershed moment in the history of media law. It featured provisions governing the registration of books, the disclosure of press keepers and newspaper publishers.

2. Vernacular Press Act, 1878 – This Act was enacted to strengthen the control over the language used in the press. It was enacted with the primary objective of eradicating Amrit Bazar Patrika, which was deemed bilingual within this Act.

3. Indian Telegraph Act, 1885– This Act granted the Government the sole authority to grant telegraph licences. It authorised the government to intercept messages and seize licenced establishments in the event of a public emergency or in the name of public safety.

4. Press Act, 1910 – This Act’s primary feature was that it authorised the government to compel any newspaper in circulation to provide security.

5. Indian Press Act, 1931– The Defence India Act was enacted in 1914 to enforce press restrictions. In 1930, the Indian Press Ordinance strengthened government control over the press. In 1931, the Indian Press Emergency Act was enacted. In 1947, the Government created a Press Enquiry Committee, which issued recommendations for repealing the 1931 Act and replacing it with the Press (Objectionable Matter) Act, 1951.

6. Copyrights Act, 1957 – This Act, together with the 1958 Copyrights Rules, was implemented to provide exclusive rights to an author or creator of an original work.

7. Cinematograph Act, 1952-With the enactment of this Act, the cinematographed film was certified. Provisions for the examination of films and their approval for unrestricted or confined use by particular categories of individuals were enacted.

8. Cable Television Network Act, 1994 – This Act governs cable operators’ operations by requiring mandatory registration under specific circumstances. Under the Cable Television Network Rules, 1994, the Program and Advertising Code restricts the substance of any programme or advertising.

9. Trade Marks Act, 1999 – This Act protects names, titles, letters, words, and other distinctive words or artwork associated with media.

10. Right to Information Act, 2005 – This Act expanded India’s media freedom and provided provisions for potential free speech.

Legal opportunities

Media law is a synthesis of established legal disciplines such as contract law, IP law, and commercial law. As a result, the business draws on a variety of practise areas, necessitating the expertise of entertainment lawyers in a variety of legal disciplines.

The majority of media attorneys specialise in either litigation or transactional law. Transactional lawyers are primarily concerned with agreements and contracts. Their primary responsibilities include creating contracts for clients, ensuring that contracts are adhered to, and negotiating commercial arrangements with clients. On the other hand, litigation attorneys are more concerned with defending their clients in the event of a lawsuit. Along with protecting their clients, they litigate on their behalf when necessary. As a result, many attorneys are adept at both criminal and civil law.

  • Law firms- India has a smattering of nationalised firms that specialise in media law. This category includes firms like DSK Legal, Dhir & Dhir Associates, and AZB & Partners among others. The majority of India’s biggest law firms have specific teams to handle media law matters. These firms essentially have legal teams who handle contracts, compliance, intellectual property, dispute resolution, data protection, mergers and acquisitions, and digital forensics, among other things.
  • Media and entertainment companies- Massive media conglomerates like Yashraj Films, Viacom, and others produce films and television shows for the media and also maintain digital presences on platforms such as Prime Amazon, YouTube etc. Music labels such as T-Series and Saregama, as well as their distribution businesses such as Reliance Entertainment, Eros, and others, also venture into show and film production. Print media companies such as HT Media (Hindustan Times), The Hindu and others have a sizable audience to target and a prominent internet presence. These media conglomerates have their own legal departments that collaborate with business teams to design and negotiate contracts, manage and acquire talent, litigate and protect their intellectual property. These firms collaborate with law firms and attorneys to ensure that they understand the legal requirements from a business standpoint.  Thus, in-house counsel working for a media or entertainment organisation must understand the company to a particular depth and level in order to advise and safeguard the company’s best interests successfully. By bridging assignments with legal departments, these in-house counsels develop knowledge in several sectors of the entertainment business, paving the road for promotion to general counsel.
  • Independent lawyers- This line of labour involves an independent legal counsel who aims to protect the interests of media firms, entertainers, and others, and is the individuals who appear in court on their clients’ behalf in order to obtain essential relief. Several legal professionals have made significant contributions to this industry, including Kapil Sabil, who introduced the Amendment Bill to the Copyright Act. These attorneys’ primary responsibility is to strike a balance between client interests and applicable law. These entertainment attorneys are the ones who protect freedom of speech and expression regardless of the circumstances and who stand up to the highest courts of law to defend the business. As a result, the experience required of a media and entertainment lawyer is highly distinctive, relying heavily on specific talents and industry knowledge.
  • Local practice- While the majority of media attorneys work for larger news organisations, even a small-town lawyer may confront media law during their practice. On-air talent is employed by local television stations for their local news programmes. Contract negotiations for an on-air talent may be handled by a local attorney. Local television stations’ contracts frequently include a non-compete provision prohibiting personalities from going on-air for a rival company for a specified period of time. A local media attorney may diligently negotiate a non-compete agreement on behalf of their client or may even contest the legality of a non-compete provision in a media contract. Local TV networks may occasionally have disagreements with their network companies in addition to on-air talent. The majority of community television stations are privately owned and run. When a network has a disagreement with a TV network, the television network may seek assistance from a local lawyer.

Why should one become a media attorney

Media law is a fascinating field of study. Media lawyers can represent businesses or celebrities they have seen on television. Additionally, media lawyers provide crucial work to society’s understanding of free speech rules and the constraints that can be imposed on various forms of media creation. Lawyers who practise media law must be excellent communicators since they advise clients on a variety of various areas of law that affect the media, such as trademarks, copyright, employment law, and dispute resolution. Lawyers seeking enthusiasm and a challenge may find media law to be an exciting and challenging legal speciality.

Conclusion

India cannot thrive as a nation devoid of media and entertainment. Movies, memes, and music have a significantly greater emotional impact on humans than any other way of entertainment generally available to humanity. Due to the industry’s ongoing evolution, it is highly improbable that it will slow down. With the rapid advancement of technology, interest in discovering and acquiring new, distinctive, and unusual forms of entertainment, such as web series, is increasing. Indian media and entertainment is among the world’s fastest expanding businesses. The industry is extraordinarily diverse, highly fragmented, and highly diversified. There is presently an increase in film production investment and a decrease in the shelf lives of films that make it to the theatre. As technology advances and entertainment becomes more accessible to India’s enormous population, the influence that this business currently plays in our daily lives cannot be diminished. As a result, the ever-expanding business necessitates an ever-adaptive legal framework to ensure peace and order. If the prospect of defending free speech and expression, reading about the legislation that protects very creative and innovative media, negotiating contracts excites you, then media law is the career for you.


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