Online gaming companies and industry bodies submit suggestions to Meity on draft rules

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Various stakeholders of the online gaming industry have submitted their suggestions to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) regarding the draft online gaming rules. The two key issues identified by them in their submissions include the function of the proposed self-regulatory organizations (SRO) and the process of game registration.

Last month, the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) had claimed that it was best suited as an SRO due to its years of practical experience in the industry. The proposal was automatically rejected, as MeitY concluded during the consultation with parents, teachers and gamers that due to the transparency principle of accountability the government will not allow any industry body in the SRO.

Due to this, many companies are now seeking changes in the draft rules going by their submissions.

During its representations, Winzo said, “Our concerns with the constitution of SROs for regulation of the online gaming industry, primarily stem from the inherent biases, conflicts of interest, between the SROs’ regulatory functions and its members, market operations, issuers, and shareholders, in as much as it was envisaged that an SRO, apart from having certain neutral members, would also necessarily consist of industry players.”

“However, the draft rules allow for the possibility of multiple SROs and hence the initial apprehension has been allayed,” Winzo added, as quoted by The Economic Times.

Meity proposes that an SRO should have representatives from information and communication technology sector, online gaming, sports, or entertainment, the online gaming industry, fields of psychology, medicine, or consumer education. A member with expertise in public administration, law enforcement, public finance, or public policy was also recommended as a candidate by the central government.

According to Mumbai-based Games24x7, which runs the RummyCircle and My11Circle platforms, the government should establish an oversight agency with adjudicatory authority for the SROs.

“Such a mechanism will ensure a robust adjudication process for industry’s smooth governance,” the company said.

The draft online gaming rules were released on January 2 by MeitY in order to guarantee that online games are provided in compliance with Indian laws and players are protected against any harm.

Previously, the deadline to submit suggestions was January 17. However, it was later extended to January 25. The government has suggested a self-regulatory framework, mandatory player authentication, and a physical Indian address for online gaming enterprises in its draft laws.

The rules also proposed that an SRO would be responsible in resolving any complaints through the grievance redressal mechanism.

IndiaTech, a Gurgaon-based startup, suggested a three-tier dispute resolution instead of the two-tier structure that was in the draft rules. The company said, “An oversight body may be constituted by the self-regulatory body as Grievance Appellate Gaming Council, consisting of experts with relevant knowledge and experience of the online gaming industry.”

“There is a risk of forum shopping by the intermediaries. An oversight body can reduce or control the risk of forum shopping and can ensure that the powers and functions of self-regulatory bodies are not compromised,” the statement added.

Concerns have been expressed by WinZo over the SRO’s authority to determine whether an online game is a game of skill and the scope of other powers granted to it for online game registration.

During an interview with ET, cofounder of Winzo, Saumya Singh Rathore, said, “In our experience, such a pre-registration is highly likely to compromise the confidentiality of information required to be submitted for evaluation/certification and lead to IP leaks which is the single most important asset a game developer has that cannot be protected by a patent. Potential delays may also compromise the first-mover advantage.”

According to the All India Gaming Federation’s (AIGF) comments, which are on behalf of a number of online gaming platforms, businesses should be able to self-certify new games based on a set of criteria before applying for registration 90 days later. AIGF said that this would provide game designers enough time to launch any novel items with the first-mover advantage.