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Tandav Row: Amazon Prime India Head Aparna Purohit’s Anticipatory Bail Plea Supreme Court Hearing on March 4

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By ANI | Updated: 3 March 2021

The Supreme Court on Wednesday postponed for Thursday hearing an appeal of the commercial head of Amazon Prime Video Aparna Purohit, against the Allahabad High Court order that denied anticipatory bail to her, in the ongoing investigation against the web series ‘Tandav’.

A Bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan said it will hear the appeal of Purohit on Thursday.

The High Court on February 25 declined to give protection from arrest to Purohit by dismissing the anticipatory bail application of her.

The Uttar Pradesh Police had filed an FIR against the top Amazon Prime executive for the derogatory depiction of Hindu deities and promoting religious enmity through the series.

The High Court in its order has noted that “such people make the revered figures of the religion of majority community source of earning money in a most brazen manner taking benefit of the liberal and tolerant tradition of the country.”

Making strong observations while rejecting Purohit’s anticipatory bail plea in a case filed against her in Noida, Justice Siddharth said, “The conduct of the applicant shows that she has scant respect for the law of the land and her conduct further disentitles her to any relief from this court.”

Earlier on January 27, the Supreme Court had refused to grant interim protection from arrest to actor and makers of web series Tandav and allowed them to approach High Courts for relief from arrest or quashing of FIRs.

Justice Ashok Bhushan while denying to grant interim protection from arrest, however, had agreed to hear the issue of transferring and clubbing several FIRs registered against them across the country and issued notice to complainants on the prayer.

Tandav actor Mohammad Zeeshan Ayyub, Purohit, and the makers had approached the top court seeking protection from arrest on the FIRs registered against them for allegedly hurting religious sentiments and telecasting objectionable content.

Tandav, a nine-episode political thriller that started streaming in January this year on Amazon Prime Over The Top (OTT) platform, featuring Saif Ali Khan, Dimple Kapadia, and Ayyub, has created an uproar for allegedly hurting religious sentiments.

The petitions filed in January had requested the top court that criminal proceedings initiated against them for offences including hurting religious sentiments be quashed or alternatively club all the seven FIRs registered in different states and transfer them to a court in Mumbai.

Three FIRs were registered in Uttar Pradesh’s Lucknow, Noida, and Shahjahanpur. Two FIRs were lodged in Madhya Pradesh while one FIR each was lodged in Karnataka and Bihar. Apart from the FIRs, at least three other criminal complaints are pending in Maharashtra, Delhi and Chandigarh respectively.

FIRs were registered for the alleged inappropriate depiction of Uttar Pradesh Police personnel, deities and adverse portrayal of a character playing the role of prime minister in the show.

FIRs mentions that the show portrayed the Hindu deity, Shiva, in “a poor light” as the actor playing him on-screen was shown using foul language.

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New Cruella Trailer Finds Emma Stone Relishing Her Cruella Side

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By Akhil Arora | Updated: 8 April 2021

Cruella has gotten a new trailer, with over seven weeks left to its May 28 release date. On Wednesday, Disney unveiled a second trailer for the Emma Stone-led origin story of the iconic villain from 101 Dalmatians, partly set to the Doris Day song “Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps”. In it, fashionista Baroness von Hellman (Emma Thompson) tells aspiring designer Estella de Vil (Stone) that she can’t care about anyone else as they are just obstacles in her path. “You have the talent. Whether you have the killer instinct is the big question,” the Baroness adds. But Estella is dismissed at work by the Baroness, and she turns up at a party to make a scene, setting fire to her dress and engaging in some fisticuffs — in heels, as she points out. She then introduces herself as Cruella.

The rest of the Cruella trailer introduces the plot of the Disney movie, which finds her recruiting some thieves and con artists — including Artie (John McCrea), Horace Badun (Paul Walter Hauser), and Jasper Badun (Joel Fry) — to make further trouble for the Baroness, including stealing her precious dalmatians and liberally tweaking with her haute couture dresses. Estella’s friend Anita (Kirby Howell-Baptiste) tells her that she has a bit of an extreme side to which she replies in the poshest of accents: “Yes darling, and what fun that is.” It is also hinted that the Baroness is not aware of Estella’s alter ego of Cruella, given a late exchange they have in the Cruella trailer.

In addition to Stone, Thompson, McCrea, Hauser, Fry, and Howell-Baptiste, Cruella also stars Mark Strong (Kingsman: The Secret Service) as the Baroness’ valet Boris, Emily Beecham (Hail, Caesar!) as Catherine, Jamie Demetriou (Fleabag, Stath Lets Flats) as Gerald, and Haruka Abe (Kiss Me First) as Liberty. Behind the scenes, Craig Gillespie (I Tonya) directs Cruella off a screenplay by Dana Fox and Tony McNamara. Andrew Gunn (Freaky Friday), Marc Platt (Mary Poppins Returns) and Kristin Burr (Christopher Robin) are the producers, with Michelle Wright, Jared LeBoff, Glenn Close, and Stone as executive producers.

Here’s the official synopsis for Cruella from Disney:

Academy Award winner Emma Stone stars in Disney’s Cruella, an all-new live-action feature film about the rebellious early days of one of cinema’s most notorious — and notoriously fashionable — villains, the legendary Cruella de Vil. Cruella, which is set in 1970s London amidst the punk rock revolution, follows a young grifter named Estella, a clever and creative girl determined to make a name for herself with her designs. She befriends a pair of young thieves who appreciate her appetite for mischief, and together they are able to build a life for themselves on the London streets. One day, Estella’s flair for fashion catches the eye of the Baroness von Hellman, a fashion legend who is devastatingly chic and terrifyingly haute, played by two-time Oscar winner Emma Thompson. But their relationship sets in motion a course of events and revelations that will cause Estella to embrace her wicked side and become the raucous, fashionable and revenge-bent Cruella.

Cruella is out May 28 in cinemas worldwide — including India — and on Disney+ with Premier Access in select markets. It is expected to debut August 27 on Disney+ Hotstar, going by earlier estimates for Mulan and Raya and the Last Dragon.

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OTT Platforms Should Be Held ‘Responsible and Accountable’ for Content: IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad

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By Reuters | Updated: 26 March 2021

India’s technology minister on Thursday said video streaming services have to be “responsible and accountable” for their shows and movies, defending rules introduced last month that regulate such content.

India tightened its grip on social media firms such as Facebook and Twitter. The rules, called the “Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code”, also require firms such as Netflix and Amazon’s Prime Video to classify content into categories based on viewers’ age.

The rules come at a time digital media or over-the-top (OTT) platforms such as Amazon Prime Video and Netflix face growing complaints in India about obscene content or hurting religious sentiments. OTT delivers content to viewers directly by the Internet.

Among the highest-profile such cases, police last month questioned a top Amazon Prime Video executive for hours over a show that allegedly hurt religious beliefs. Amazon was also forced to issue an apology.

On Thursday, Indian technology minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said if companies had the right to create content, others had the right to have a grievance.

India’s new rules mandate tech companies including video streaming giants to set up a grievance redressal mechanism and appoint new executives to coordinate with law enforcement.

The three-tier grievance resolution system begins with self-regulation by the content platform and ends at a government appointed panel headed by a ministry official.

“India is tolerant and will remain tolerant,” Prasad said. “But the limits of tolerance and standards of tolerance should not be judged on the creating freedom or abuse of a particular producer of an OTT platform.”

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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Streaming Drives 7.4 Percent Growth in Global Recorded Music Business Last Year

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By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 24 March 2021

The global recorded music business grew by 7.4 percent last year, an industry body said Tuesday, as streaming continued to drive a fast-paced recovery from the doldrums of the piracy era.

The return of vinyl continued unabated with sales up 23.5 percent on the year before, while CDs continued their steady decline, down 11.9 percent, according to the annual report by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI).

But it is streaming – up 19.9 percent – that has propelled the industry back to growth in the last decade, with overall revenues now at $21.6 billion (roughly Rs. 1,56,700 crore), close to their level at the turn of the century before the Internet began to devastate incomes.

Streaming platforms, led by Spotify, Apple, and Deezer, now account for 62.1 percent of global music revenues, the report said, with some 443 million paying subscribers.

South Korean phenomemon BTS topped the overall best-sellers list, followed closely by Taylor Swift, Drake, The Weeknd, and Billie Eilish.

Two songs broke through the two billion stream mark: The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights” (2.72bn) and Tones and I’s “Dance Monkey” (2.34bn), while BTS dominated the album charts in both streaming and physical formats with “Map of the Soul: 7”.

IFPI said a major trend was the growth of global connections, despite pandemic-related travel restrictions.

“K-Pop continues to make great strides, of course, but I would argue the most exciting development this year has been how African music and African artists have been embraced by fans worldwide,” said Simon Robson of Warner Music in the report.

The African region was included for the first time, with growth of 8.4 percent, led by artists such as Burna Boy from Nigeria who picked up a Grammy for best global music album this month.

“What’s incredibly exciting is we now see artists from anywhere in the world have the ability to break into any other market in the world,” Dennis Kooker of Sony Music told a press conference for the report.

“There are no barriers to entry, no barriers to consumers who want to engage with an artist. It’s as exciting now creatively as I’ve ever seen.”

‘Misconception’
For all the good news, there have been mounting protests over the streaming economy, with many artists saying it benefits only the biggest stars and leaves little for mid-size and niche musicians.

Frances Moore, IFPI’s chief executive, dismissed claims that there were problems with the industry.

“The research that we did shows that artists’ revenues are higher than the revenues coming back to the industry after costs, etc. So from that point of view, there’s a misconception that artists are not doing well,” she told reporters.

She said the misconception was likely due to level of competition in a world where seven million artists are featured on Spotify, uploading 60,000 tracks per day.

“The role of the record company… is about being a partner of the artist,” added Konrad von Lohneysen, of German label Embassy of Music.

“We’re very confident our role will remain as it is and that artists will realise what they have with a label… in letting them to do what they want to do – make art.”

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OTT Regulation: Supreme Court Stays Proceedings Pending in High Courts

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By ANI | Updated: 23 March 2021

The Supreme Court on Tuesday stayed all proceedings pending before various high courts across the country for regulation and functioning of Over-the-top (OTT) platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hotstar, etc by the government.

A bench, headed by Justice DY Chandrachud, stayed further proceedings of pleas pending before various high courts and said it would hear the petitions pending before it on a similar issue in the second week of April.

Justice MR Shah, also comprising the bench, said there are many high courts where these cases are pending and proceedings of all these cases can stay.

The apex court was hearing a batch of Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by advocate Shashank Shekhar Jha, appearing for Justice for Rights Foundation for regulating OTT platforms by an autonomous body.

The petitions sought a proper board, institution and association for the monitoring and management of content on different OTT, streaming and digital media platforms.

The central government has also filed the transfer petition seeking transfer of cases pending in different high courts for the regulation of OTT platforms. The Supreme Court bench had earlier issued a notice on Centre’s plea and tagged it with other petitions.

Also, the ministry of information and broadcasting, in the affidavit submitted before the apex court, assured it that firm check on the content on OTT platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime as new regulations are in place.

It stated that the new Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 has been notified to address the issue.

Earlier, the top court had asked the Centre to apprise it on what government proposes to do to regulate OTT platforms and asked it to file an affidavit on what it is planning to do after the government said it”s working on the issue.

One of the petitions, filed by advocate Jha, said that at present there is no law or autonomous body governing, monitoring and managing such digital contents and it is made available to the public at large without any filter or screening.

The PIL said that none of the OTT/streaming platforms including Netflix, Amazon Prime, Zee5, and Hotstar have signed the self-regulation provided by the information and broadcasting ministry since February 2020.

There are over 40 such platforms providing paid, ad-inclusive, and free content to approximately 130 crore people across India, the petitioners said.

The petitions said their aim is to protect the constitutional right to life, by preventing these platforms from abusing their freedom of expression.

The plea requested the setting up of a board headed by a secretary-level IAS officer, with members from varied fields including movie, cinematographic, media, defence forces, legal, and education.

The plea stated, “With cinemas theatres unlikely to open anytime soon in the country, OTT/Streaming and different digital media platforms have surely given a way out for filmmakers and artists to release their content without being worried about getting clearance certificates for their films and series from the censor board.”

In a separate case, the Centre had earlier told the apex court that there is a need to regulate digital media and that the court may first appoint a committee of persons as amicus before laying down guidelines with respect to the regulation of hate speech in media.

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Tencent Music to Team Up With Warner Music Group for New Record Label in China

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By Reuters | Updated: 23 March 2021

Tencent Music Entertainment Group said on Monday it will create a joint venture record label with Warner Music Group in China, after reporting better-than-expected revenue on higher subscriptions in the fourth quarter.

The Chinese music streaming platform also signed an extended multi-year licensing agreement with the US music label. The deal can help Tencent, which owns a stake in Universal Music Group, add more exclusive content.

People looking for a variety of entertainment, while stuck at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, joined music streaming platforms such as Tencent and Spotify to drive away boredom. This helped Tencent Music’s fourth quarter as it added more paying users.

Revenue rose 14.3 percent to CNY 8.34 billion (roughly Rs. 9,270 crore) in the quarter from a year earlier, beating estimates of CNY 8.33 billion (roughly Rs. 9,260 crore). The sales were boosted by a 40.4 percent jump to 56 million paid subscribers in the company’s online music service.

Most of Tencent Music’s users are in its music streaming unit, but the biggest revenue drivers are social entertainment services, including karaoke platforms, where users can live stream concerts and shows. Revenue from social entertainment services and others grew 8.2 percent to CNY 5.58 billion (roughly Rs. 6,200 crore).

Excluding items, the company earned CNY 80 (roughly Rs. 890) per American Depository Share (ADS), missing analysts’ average estimate of CNY 81 (roughly Rs. 900) per ADS, according to IBES data from Refinitiv .

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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YouTube Shorts Beta Rollout Begins in US After India Testing

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By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 19 March 2021

YouTube on Thursday started rolling out an early version of its Shorts quick-clip feature in the United States, ramping up its challenge to TikTok.

The popularity of YouTube Shorts soared during testing in India, and it has been racking up more than 6.5 billion views a day by people tuning in overall, according to product lead Todd Sherman of the Google-owned video service.

“We’re introducing our YouTube Shorts Beta to the United States starting today, as we continue to build the experience alongside our global community,” Sherman said.

“We plan to introduce more features as we continue to build Shorts alongside creators and artists.”

YouTube is also working on ways for people to make money from audiences at Shorts, according to Sherman.

The new service is the latest to challenge the fast-growing Chinese-owned TikTok which has faced scrutiny over its ties to the Beijing government.

Netflix early this month added a “Fast Laughs” feature to its iPhone app, serving up comic clips in rapid fire, in a move taking on the popular video app TikTok.

Facebook-owned Instagram responded to TikTok’s popularity with their own short video format called Reels last August.

And in November, Snapchat launched Spotlight, a public feed of content produced by users.

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