Clarification needed on social media video licence rule

From members of the royal family showcasing their culinary skills to cheeky teenagers recording their antics – the creation of video content in Malaysia has surged especially during the Movement Control Order.

The partial lockdown which kicked in on March 18 had in fact encouraged many to come up with talk shows, cooking shows, webinars and video recordings of their daily lives while being indoors.

These content creators were taken aback with the Communications and Multimedia Ministry’s statement that it is compulsory for producers of films, regardless if they are from mainstream media or personal media, to apply for a Film Production Licence and Film Shooting Certificate.

Ex-national squash player Sharon Wee, who together with bowling queen Shalin Zulkifli started a YouTube talk show Sharon & Shalin Nak Sembang Apa Tu?, said there should be clarity as this would eventually affect the creative industry in Malaysia.

“I don’t think there’s such a ruling anywhere else in the world, that you need a licence from the authorities to put up a video on your own social media platform,” said Wee.

“Shalin and I started our video talk show on YouTube during the MCO and we are very proud of it. We have helped inspire people with our knowledge and experience and more importantly, we mean well.”

Wee admitted some videos that appear on social media should be brought down.

“But the benefits of creating video and publishing them on social media outweigh the negatives. If there is a restriction, it will only restrict creativity.

“The world has moved on with creative thinking, Internet of Things and artificial intelligence. The MCO forced us to innovate and approach people through the Internet. The authorities should really re-look at what they have said and provide some clarity.”

In reply to Wong Shu Qi (PH-Kluang) during the Ministerial Question Time this morning, Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Abdullah said Section 22(1) of the National Film Development Corporation (Finas) Act states no one can take part in any activity to produce, distribute or broadcast any film unless a licence is issued to the person.

In her supplementary question, Wong had asked Saifuddin the exact definition of film, and if this would affect those who use social media platforms, namely Instagram TV or TikTok.

To this, Saifuddin said Section 2 of the Finas Act states that film includes feature films, short films, trailers, advertising “filmlets” and any recording on material of any kind, including videotapes and video discs of moving images, accompanied or unaccompanied by sound, and documentaries, for the viewing of the public.

Celebrity Daphne Iking was taken aback when she read the ministry’s statement.

“How is the government going to implement the ruling? Is there going to be an app? There will be hundreds of thousands if not millions of people who will be applying for the license as everyone is producing content in some form either on social media or on YouTube,” Daphne said.

“We already have laws that govern content creators. What the government should do is to follow Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s example at his last press conference and give a friendly warning or advise to follow rules if we don’t want harsh conditions to be imposed.”

She said there should be some form of guideline or clarity about what this Finas license is about.

“Many people will suffer. What about social media influencers? Many of them earn a living by producing video content. How will this affect them.”

Gogulan Dorairajoo, the chief executive officer of public relations agency Rantau Golin, described the ministry’s statement as “ill-advised.”

“In my line of work we use videos that are crowdsourced extensively and this (statement) will hinder or even put a complete stop to what we do,” said Gogulan.

“This ruling has always been there but enforcement is going to be another issue. If the ruling is there to address a dispute, then it should be clarified and a different set of rules should apply.”

He added social media had a life of its own.

“The blowback to this (issue) will tell you the importance of managing your communications in this day and age.”

PsST

A content creator said clients would now demand that agencies, including influencers, be licensed by Finas.

“Who will enforce this and what is the enforcement mechanism as there are thousands of video created in the country and posted on social media daily,” said the Kuala Lumpur-based content creator who declined to be named.

“Will this mean that action will only be taken if there is a complaint? What if it’s a competitor who complained? And with clients demanding things to be done as soon as possible, how fast will the licensing and approval processes be? We have clients who want videos created and posted on their social media platforms during or immediately after the events. Is that now possible?” he asked.

He also wondered if people will be penalised if they create festive video greetings on behalf of their families or companies and sent these out via WhatsApp or post on social media.

UPDATE (7.03pm): Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah stressed the government has no intention of curbing personal freedom on social media.

Saifuddin said news reports following his reply in Parliament this morning led to a different context from his replies. He admitted laws had to be updated.

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