Cinematograph film copyright

Detailed Accessible Cinematograph Film Copyright

“I’m looking forward to making my first film and already have contracts with production companies, scriptwriters and the music composers to make a successful film. However, I’m afraid that my work can be reproduced by someone else as the internet has become a very  scary place when it comes to copying contents. Also, there are many competitors in the film industry and I don’t want my film to be copied by anyone else. Not only the film, the other creators who will be working together want to protect their work but we don’t have the proper knowledge on how to protect our work from such disputes.”

The word "copyright" written on a typewriter

Did you know the films you watch or the sound recording or the background music are all protected under the copyright law ? 

Because, it’s regarded as an original work by a creator. Copyright provides the privilege to the original creators to protect their unique artistic works and provides the original creator to enjoy the exclusive rights and rewards. It’s important to note that a mere idea cannot be protected by copyright, if the idea is in the form of a creative work then it will be eligible to obtain a copyright protection. This leads us to cinematograph film copyright.

For example, a cinematographer has an idea to make a movie based on a unique plot but he cannot claim for copyright protection because it’s just a mere idea. However, if he implements the same idea and makes a movie or a video, then the work can be protected under the Copyright law.

Therefore, cinematographic films can be defined as a visual work on any medium which is created through a method by which moving images can be created. Cinematograph includes any work when a work involves moving images or visuals. 

To understand the definitions from the legal perspective let’s take example of the UK Copyright Act of 1956, which defines cinematographic film under the Section 13, which states that Cinematograph films are the sequence of visual images which are capable of being shown as a moving image, or of being recorded on other material such as video tapes. 

Not only the UK copyright law, the definition of cinematographic film is also mentioned under the Indian Copyright law. Under the Section 2(f) of Copyright Act, 1957, cinematographic film means any work that consists of visual recording and a sound recording to accompany the visual recording.   

In the age of advanced technologies, it has become easy to copy and distribute someone’s original work. Therefore, it’s crucial to know about three things that will be discussed in this article, the three things are as follows: 

a. How your work can be registered ?

b. How copyright is related to cinematographic films ?, and 

c. How the creators are being benefited ?

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Copyright registration differs from one country to another. For instance, in India it isn’t compulsory as the work automatically gets copyrighted once it’s created. However, it is advisable to get your work registered for copyright protection even though it’s automatic because the documents you will receive after the registration can be used as evidence in the case of copyright infringement or disputes occurred on your original creation. 

Along with that, copyright registration will prevent your work from being duplicated for a certain period of time. Similarly, in US copyright law, copyright registration is not mandatory but it is necessary in order to enforce the exclusive rights through litigation. Registration under US copyright law helps you to have a record of your work with US customs and border protection that will give you the protection from improper use of your work or infringement of your copyrighted work.

The stamp of "registered" after completing of the copyright registration process
  1. There are some prerequisites needed to be followed for copyright registration such as the work must be original, creative and can be fixed in a tangible medium.
  2. The original author or the authorized person can reproduce or reuse his work under the copyright law.
  3. Privileges enjoyed by the copyright holder are the right to issue copies of his work, can reproduce his work or control the reproduction of his work by someone else, etc.
  4. Not everyone can opt for copyright protection, only the creative professionals such as cinematographers, artists, musicians, authors, writers, etc can opt for copyright protection and register their work under the Copyright law.
  5. The original works should be in a tangible form, it means the work must possess a physical form which can be felt or touched or have a concrete form.

As the registration process is different in different countries, documents required for copyright registration may also vary. For instance, In India, the documents required for the Copyright registration are:

  1. Complete details of the applicant.
  2. The author or owner of the copyright must sign Form XIV and SOP (Statement of Particulars).
  3. If the work is a published work, then 1 copy is required. 2 copies if it’s an unpublished work.
  4. Power of Attorney is needed If the filling is being done by a representative or an advocate and not by the applicant.
  5. NOC (No objection Certificate) is required if more than one applicant is involved in this process.
  6. Statement of further Particulars is required for other copyrighted works but not for cinematograph films.

Or as an another example, under the US copyright law, an applicant needs to submit three items:

  1. A complete application form which can be sent on online mode.
  2. Filing fee (non-refundable).
  3. One copy of the work.


  1. After the applicant submit his application, it is duly checked by the copyright officer to ensure whether all the submitted documents are attached to the application.In case of any missing document, the copyright officer sends a letter to the applicant.
  2. The work will be advertised for one month to invite any objections raised by anyone who has interest in the subject matter or doesn’t approve of copyright protection provided to the applicant. If objections are raised, then both the parties will be called to reply in writing and further it would be heard by the registrar. 
  3. If no objections are raised, then further process will be held. In case of discrepancy, the applicant will be advised to make the relevant changes and after the changes being made, it will be passed for the registration.
  4. After the completion of the examination process, registration will take place and upon completion of which a registration certificate will be issued to the applicant. 
  5. The duration of copyright protection for cinematograph films is 60 years according to the Copyright Act, 1957.


The Copyright protection in the UK is provided in accordance with the UK Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988. Just like other countries, the UK only provides copyright protection for the expression of an idea and not just a mere idea. 

There are no formal procedures to apply for copyright protection in the UK. The copyright protection is obtained since the day the work has been created and it shall be protected under the UK copyright law. However, as per the recommendations of the British copyright council, creators or authors must have self-recording as an evidence in case any third-party tries to violate the copyright law. The act of self-recording can be done in many ways, such as:

  1. A creator or author can send a copy of his work by post and seal it properly and write the name and date of creation on it. 
  2. The author may also send the copies of his work to his legal advisor or any entity or any other authority who can keep his work safely. 
  3. The author can employ any private entities or companies to support him in case of any disputes. Please note that these private entities don’t work under the UK government and own a separate company to provide assistance in case of disputes.


Apart from filling the application and sending the application form to the US Copyright Office, it is the responsibility of the owner to look out for any possibility of infringement and protecting the copyright internationally. As the US copyright is complex, therefore, the copyright laws should be enforced when all the other methods don’t work. If the situation demands, then its highly recommended to hire a professional LegaMart lawyer to look after the copyright disputes and these cases will proceed at civil courts or federal courts. 

The duration of copyright of cinematograph films under the US copyright law is the life of the author in addition with 70 years or 95 years from the date of publication or 120 years from the date of creation of the work. Please kindly note that this duration is for the works created on or after 1st January 1978. 

For all the works that are created before the year 1978, are protected under the Copyright Act, 1909 which protects for the first 28 years and offers a chance to renew the protection. If the copyrighted work does not get renewed or expired, then it would be made available for anyone to use in the public domain.

The privileges enjoyed by the creators in cinematograph films are:

a. Only the creator has the right to reproduce his work in any ways or in any manner as he wishes. However, if the work is yet to be published, then the creator is authorized to publish it. 

b. A cinematograph film is published in many ways such as TV shows, Compact disk or DVD broadcasting the Cinematograph films, or the movies released in theaters or OTT platforms.

c. The creator is the one who permits anyone to use his creation in films or cinemas or videos.

d. Only the creator has the authority to make any modifications in his cinematograph films.

A white big clapper board for a movie

Copyright is a legal protection and an expression that is used to describe the exclusive rights of the original creator. It helps to express that only the creator has the authorized rights over his work and no one else can use his work without his permission. The copyright protection can be obtained over a wide range of creative works such as books, computer software, computer programs, advertisements, sound recordings, music, cinematograph films, drawings or any artistic work that is originally created by someone. 

Copyright provides an assurance to the creators/authors/writers that their work is being protected legally and no one can steal or use their work. Similarly, anyone who makes films, videos, or any visual recordings can obtain copyright protection. In today’s world where everything is available on the internet, it’s quite difficult to prevent copyright infringement as anyone can access these visuals for their own use. 

Therefore, it’s advisable to obtain copyright protection which provides number of benefits to the creator, such as legal protection of ownership, protecting the rights of the creator, generation of revenue, prevention of infringement and monetary damages, display of the work in public without any fear of violation of laws, and to reproduce the work freely.

Censorship is a word used to define when an idea, word or image is suppressed because it’s offensive in nature. Censorship has an effect on copyright when a creator of the cinematograph film commits an offense of censorship in film and is liable for that offense, here, the main question arises whether the creator committing offense of censorship will have any effect on his exclusive rights or the benefits he’s receiving under the copyright law. 

However, the Copyright act only states about the rights of the creator and the effects of copyright only depends upon the provisions of the copyright act, therefore, if the creator fails to comply with the laws relating to censorship films, then it wouldn’t affect his copyright over the work.

Performance of Artist in movie

The performance of an actor is not protected under the Copyright Act. However, the Rome convention has established new provisions under the Copyright law by introducing performer’s rights. Here, the term “performers” includes actors, singers, musicians, dancers or any performers who work upon artistic or literary work, they are protected for some acts for which they have not provided any consent. Such acts includes broadcasting and communication with the audience, fixing the live performances, making a copy of such fixations whether it was made not with their consents or made with their consents for any other purposes. The broadcasting authorities enjoys such rights to prohibit: reproduction of their work, fixation of broadcasting, or reproduction of such fixations. 

You must know that most of the films or short videos consist of some music or song as a part of it. As these music, songs and lyrics are a part of cinematographic films, they need to obtain copyright protection to prevent infringement or violation. However, the author or lyric or the producer of a music have their own individual rights to produce their work in public and therefore, they have the authority to allow the creators of a cinematographic film to present their work as a part of their film in front of the public. 

According to Section 14 of the Indian Copyright law, upon the completion of cinematographic film, a copyright and the performer’s right is provided to the owner as the music or song or the lyric may have some visual images when it becomes a part of the cinematographic film which would be seen and heard in the public. It is important to note here that no permission or consent will be taken from the author or producer for the work being performed in public. 

In other words, the author or the producer who has provided the authority and permission to the creator of cinematographic film to use his musical or sound recording or lyric work as an acoustic portion of the cinematographic film cannot restrain the creator of the film from using or representing it in public for making profits in any way. The author or producer of the music or lyric cannot restrain the creator of the cinematographic film from projecting his work in radio channels or promoting his film which contains the music or lyric in radio channels or any broadcasting channels. 

As per the Copyright Act, the creator of cinematographic film has the authority to do all the above-mentioned things as per his wishes. He is not prohibited to distribute his cinematographic work just because some part of the film belongs to the music composer or producer. 

Sound recording

Sound recording can be defined as the recording of a sound irrespective of the medium or the method by which the sounds can be produced. A sound recording can be protected under the Copyright law only if the sound recording is made as per the Copyright provisions. In general, the owner of sound recording does not have the exclusive rights to perform it publicly as according to the Copyright law or the copyright will not exist if the work has been infringed. However, an owner of the sound recording may perform publicly through the means of digital audio transmission. 

As per the UK Copyright, Designs and Patent Act, 1988, the term “Sound recording” is defined as follows:

  1. It is a recording of sound from which the sound may be reproduced, or
  2. It is a recording of sound of the whole part or any part of literary, musical, or dramatic work and the same can be reproduced in different ways irrespective of the medium or process it was used to develop the sound recording.

In addition to what was said about cinematograph film copyright, the Copyright protection doesn’t exist for the authors who copy a copyrighted sound recording. 

To sum up, we can say that the copyright laws can vary from country to country. In the case of cinematographic films, the copyright laws have produced a wide range of provisions which shows that copyright protection is vital for protecting a creative work. Once you obtain a copyright protection no one can reproduce your work and own the work for their benefits. The copyright protection is available for cinematographic films that include music, lyric, sound recordings, etc except for the actors who act in the films. The actors don’t get copyright protection for their acting skills but they do have performer’s rights. 


No. The names of a movie cannot be copyrighted because it doesn’t come under the category of “creative works”. Though, you can apply for the trademark protection for the movie titles. 

Generally, copyright protection is based on the type of the creative work and not based on the content of the work, especially in the case of cinematographic films. Although different countries have different copyright laws, they generally provide copyright protection for all types of movies and films.

Usually, it is the production company, scriptwriter, director, cinematographer who owns the copyright. They usually get into a work-for-hire contract. 

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