General - Film Rights

  1. This is a complex area and LALG cannot provide further advice to individual groups.  You can find out more at the Office for Independent Cinema.
  2. To screen a film to the public, you need permission from the film’s copyright owner. Usually this is its UK distributor. Permission may be granted in the form of a licence or a film booking. 
  3. The ICO provides a programming advice service to all film clubs and community cinemas in the UK, offering advice on film availability, hire terms, formats, rights information and accessing publicity materials. Please email info@independentcinemaoffice.org.uk
  4. If you plan to charge for tickets to your screening to generate a profit, you will need to check your chosen venue has a premises licence to exhibit films as stipulated by the Licensing Act 2003.
  5. If you are charging for tickets but only to cover your costs, and assuming your screening is to be held between 8.00am and 11.00pm, your venue does not need a premises licence. The Licensing Act 2003 defines screenings of this type as not-for-profit.
  6. You can charge for additional activities (such as refreshments or film talks) with a view to making a profit, as long as these are kept distinct from admission to the film itself.
  7. If you are screening to generate a profit, you need to check your chosen venue has a premises licence in place. Please note that this extends even to screenings where you are selling tickets to raise funds for charity.
  8. Under the Licensing Act 2003 a licence is required to provide ‘regulated entertainment’ to members of the public or a section of the public and for members of a club and their guests. One of the descriptions of ‘regulated entertainment’ is the exhibition of a film.
  9. There are three types of licences available to provide ‘regulated entertainment’:
  • A premises licence
  • A club premises certificate
  • A temporary event notice
  1. The licensing of films for non-theatrical, Blu-ray/DVD screenings can be complicated, but the vast majority of films are available through three major gateway distributors: the BFIFilmbankmedia or MPLC.
  2. if the film you want isn’t held by the BFI, Filmbankmedia or MPLC, it may be available from the title’s original, individual distributor, in which case you will need to book it directly with them. This is particularly true of smaller independent films.
  3. The BFI and Filmbankmedia offer online catalogues (see BFI’s DVD catalogue, Filmbankmedia’s catalogue) where you can search to see if they have the rights to a particular film. For details of MPLC’s catalogue, you’ll need to contact their licensing team.
  4. In some circumstances even if a film is available to buy or rent for home use, it doesn’t mean public screening rights are automatically available. The same stringent rights conditions apply to DVD and Blu-ray screenings as for DCP and 35mm screenings. Rights holders often only hold home entertainment licences and are unable to grant public screening rights on their DVD/Blu-ray titles. Clearing these rights for public screenings, particularly on older titles, can be a complex procedure sometimes involving liaising directly with a film’s producer or international sales agent. However, having said this, the explosion in available titles on DVD and Blu-ray has definitely increased access to a wider range of titles for the non-theatrical sector and expanded cultural programmers’ pool of available titles.
  5. Films screened in schools or universities may be exempt from copyright licensing if they are screened as part of curricular activities or are part of a particular curriculum.
  6. Films over 50 years of age and for which there are no active rights holders may be out of copyright, in which case you can screen them to the public without film copyright licensing. However, it can be hard to find out which films are truly out of copyright, as rights are still kept up on many titles older than this.

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