Distribution and broadcasting of films

The distribution and broadcasting of films include complex processes that enable films, as audiovisual works, to be transmitted from the moment of the production to viewing in front of the screen. These processes are essential for the success of any film, and therefore, in addition to the production itself, they are of immense importance. These complex processes typically take longer than the filming itself, and one of the reasons for this is precisely the fact that they are intertwined with various lawful issues, which must be regulated before the film comes to the screen.

Broadly speaking, film distribution includes an extensive range of activities related to placing a film on the market, and this is where film distributors come into play. They decide about the choice of screening platforms (cinemas, television, streaming services, and the like), decide the release date, as well as the marketing and promotion strategy. In addition, this phase entails negotiations with cinemas and streaming platforms about the conditions of broadcasting. When we talk about the broadcasting, we can say that it is the stage in which the films become available to the audience. Traditionally, movies are released in cinemas first, which can last for weeks or months, and only after that, the movies are available on other platforms.

The legal aspects of these issues are even more complex than the distribution and display process itself. It is related to a broad range of legal issues that must be harmonized with the applicable regulations, especially bearing in mind the international character of films. As follows, adequate legal support and legal protection are necessary during all these processes.

The most frequent questions that arise are:

  1. Copyright and related rights – A film, as an audiovisual work, is considered a co-authored work, so respecting copyright is one of the prominent issues during its distribution and screening. Distribution contracts must clearly stipulate all conditions under which the film can be shown, including possible geographical restrictions, time period of availability and the like, all depending on the specifics of the platforms on which it is displayed. One of the most familiar examples of violation of these rights today is better recognized as piracy in the broadest sense. The fight against piracy presents a constant challenge in the film industry, and the need to secure these rights is crucially important, so most authorities recognize piracy as a crime. However, in addition to authors, very often, as is the case in our country, the law equally recognizes actors, as performers, who therefore also fall under the protection of related rights.
  2. Industrial property right – In addition to copyrights, there are other intellectual property rights related to the film, whose adequate protection is equally important. First of all, we are talking about intellectual property rights related to trademarks, where non-respect of this right can cause considerable damage to the holder of that right, and so the obligation of the infringer to compensate for that damage.
  3. Censorship – Film, as an author’s work, has no territorial boundaries and therefore is often subject to specific regulations that vary from country to country. These specifics also include issues such as censorship of certain content, restrictions as well as other obligations. Precisely because of this, distributors must be adequately familiar with all statutory and by-law regulations when showing the film in various markets, in order to ensure compliance and thereby avoid all potential legal problems.
  4. Data protection and privacy – The protection of personal data is of increasing importance, and with the rise of digitalization, the need for their protection is practically inevitable. Due to the connection between film and the digital industry, it is understandable that these obligations equally apply to film distributors, as they must ensure that the collection and processing of user data are conducted in compliance with the relevant laws on the protection of personal data.
  5. Contracts – In order to ensure the proper security of all participants in these processes in a straightforward way, it is necessary to conclude valid and adequate contracts between them, which regulate their mutual rights and obligations.

The distribution and broadcasting of films have changed significantly in recent years, especially with the development of digital technology and the Internet. That digital revolution enabled faster and more efficient distribution of films on a global level, but on the other hand, these changes led to various challenges such as massive violations of copyright, piracy and the like. Furthermore, managing the legal aspects of film distribution and broadcasting requires detailed knowledge of relevant laws and regulations. These legal frameworks not only protect the rights of authors and distributors, but also enable the audience, as end users, to access legal film content. Due to all of the above, high-quality and constant legal support is extremely important for all participants in the distribution and screening of films.

Author: Nikolina Pilipović

About the author