Copyright in films and television programmes
Produced in partnership with Alexis Hawkes of BBC IP Legal
Copyright in films and television programmes

The following TMT guidance note Produced in partnership with Alexis Hawkes of BBC IP Legal provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Copyright in films and television programmes
  • Copyright in films
  • CDPA 1988
  • The Copyright Act 1956
  • CA 1911: Films made from 1 July 1912 and prior to 1 June 1957
  • Qualifying requirements
  • Term of protection for films
  • CA 1911
  • Copyright Act 1956
  • CDPA 1988
  • more

For the purposes of copyright law the term 'film' means a recording, on any medium, from which a moving image may by any means be produced. A television programme is protected as a film for these purposes and the definition is intended to be technology neutral.

This Practice Note looks at the copyright protection afforded to film and television programmes themselves as copyright works and Practice Note: Copyright in film and television: making a new film looks at some issues regarding the types of works (dramatic, literary, musical and artistic works) known as the 'underlying rights' which a producer may need to create or be required to licence during the process of making a new film or television production.

The legal issues relating to television formats are not addressed in this Practice Note; instead, see Practice Note: Television format rights.

Copyright in films

The general rule is that the subsistence of copyright in existing films depends upon the date of their creation and is determined by the law in place at the time the film was made. The 'author' is the first owner of the copyright in a film and is also determined in accordance with the law in place at the time the film was made.

Depending on the date a film was made the law applicable may be:

  1. the Copyright Act