What are the movie screening laws in India

29-Jun-2023 (In Trademark & Copyright Law)
What is law for screening of movies (old classics) for commercial use in India? I have a few sub-questions relating to the same: 1. How do I know if a movie has Public Performance Rights? 2. Under what circumstances do i have to pay the producers of the movie? 3. If a movie is in public domain in the US/UK, can it be screened for commercial purposes in India?
Answers (4)

Answer #1
511 votes
1. every movie and music is part of PPR, or to re confirm file an enquiry application with PPR office, even if the movie is not in PPR director, musician, and producer has right to sue you, if you use or screen movie without their prior permission.
2. Producer or production house will can tell how much royalties they want on screening.
3. Even movie is in UK /US you have no right to screen it india, also you need to take permission or NOC from India Film commission.

let us know if you want to take this forward.
Answer #2
813 votes
The relevant provision of law is the Indian Copyright Act, 1957 and a movie (cinematograph film) is subject matter of copyright for a period of 60 years from the date of the release of the film and thereafter the film is in public domain. If the copyright in the work still subsists then you have to pay royalty to the owner of copyright which is usually the producer of the movie. If the movie is in the public domain in US/UK then you may additionally require a censor certificate to screen it in India. However, you may have to be a little careful as the copyright in the underlying works in the movie, such as story, music and lyrics may still be in existence even if the copyright in the film has expired.
Answer #3
827 votes

From your query it is not possible to know the complete facts of the case and in this situation it is difficult to clarify and advise you correctly. You are suggested to provide the complete facts.
Thanks and regards
Answer #4
849 votes
Freedom of press is a fundamental right guaranteed by the Indian Constitution and the same applies to Cinema, which is a free enterprise and outside the control of the Government except Films Division and Doordarshan which are aimed at educating and informing the public while entertaining them. Though neither cinema nor press are separately listed or enumerated in the Constitution, freedom of speech is a fundamental right under Article 19(1)(a). The freedom of expression is interpreted as the right to express one's opinion by words of mouth, writing, printing, picture or any other manner including movies. However, this right is subject to reasonable restrictions on the grounds set out in Article 19(2) of the Constitution.

Cinematograph Act, 1952 provides for provisions for the certification of cinematograph films for exhibition and for regulating exhibitions by means of cinematographs. Copyright Act, 1957 defines Cinematograph film as any work of visual recording on any medium produced through a process from which a moving image may be produced by any means and includes a sound recording accompanying such visual recording and "cinematograph" shall be construed as including any work produced by any process analogous to cinematography including video films. The same Copyright Act allows screening of movies for commercial use in India subject to restrictions.

Under s. 14(d) the author of a cinematograph film in which the copyright subsists has the following exclusive rights:

(1) to make a copy of the film including a photograph of any image forming part thereof

(2) to sell or give on hire, or offer for sale or hire, any copy of the 'film, regardless of whether such copy has been sold or given on hire on earlier occasions

(3) to communicate the film to the public.

Copyright protection is available only to the cinematograph film including the sound track. The cine artists who act in the film are not protected by copyright law for their acting. Copyright Act allows screening of movies be it old classics of recent and latest releases for commercial use subject to S. 14(d) read with S. 52. The laws relating to fair dealing have been incorporated in Section 52 of The Copyrights Act, 1957. As the Indian Copyright Act does not defines the term "fair dealing" , the courts have on various occasions referred to the authority English case Hubbard v Vosper on the subject matter. The words of Lord Denning in this case lay down a much descriptive outline of fair dealing-

"It is impossible to define what is "fair dealing". It must be a question of degree. You must first consider the number and extent of the quotations and extracts.... then you must consider the use made of them....Next, you must consider the proportions...other considerations may come into mind also. But, after all is said and done, it is a matter of impression."

As the Indian courts have explored and unveiled the various facets of fair dealing, they have said that there cannot be a definite or exhaustible list of uses which can come within the purview of fair dealing but it has to be decided depending upon the facts and circumstances of each case.

In (INDIA TV) INDEPENDENT NEWS SERVICES Pvt. Ltd vs YASHRAJ FILMS PRIVATE LIMITED & SUPER CASSETTES LTD. one of the various grounds of dispute was that the defendants "India TV" broadcasted a TV show wherein a documentary is shown on the life of singers and they perform their own songs. While the singer sings, clips of scenes from the movies are shown in the background. The plaintiffs claimed that such acts of the defendants amounted to infringement of their copyright. However, the defendants claimed that such use of the plaintiff's copyrighted material constituted fair dealing within the meanings of section 52 of the Copyrights Act. The Delhi High Court restrained the defendants from distributing, broadcasting or otherwise publishing or in any other way exploiting any cinematograph film, sound recordings or part thereof that is owned by the plaintiff. However, if we look at the present case from a slightly different perspective, there are certain questions which still remain unanswered. In my opinion the argument of the counsel for defendant stating that "the singer who has recorded a song which has gone on to become a hit has a sense of ownership over such a song, and that it would be very unreasonable-to the point of being unfair and cruel to the said singer, to say that he/she cannot sing the said song in a TV or other interactive program in front of an audience, only because the copyright in the underlying literary and musical works resides in some other person(s)" also withholds a valid point. But since such use does not come within the exhaustive list provided under section 52 of the act, they were deprived of any remedy in the fair dealing laws.But, after a long litigation saga, in the appeal from the above order, the Hon'ble bench of the Delhi High Court also felt the need of a diversion from the conventional approach and thus the decision of the single judge was set aside and the restrictions thus imposed were accordingly removed. However, the Appellants were still prohibited from displaying any cinematographic films without permission.

Undoubtedly, "fair dealing" is a necessary doctrine, not only in the Copyright laws but also in strengthening the protection given to the citizens under Article 19 of the Constitution of India. But the Indian law related to fair dealing is very limited and confined as compared to the US fair dealing laws which is more elaborate and keeps a flexible approach.

Public performance rights for movies in India are still in primitive stage. However, for a better understanding of public performance rights are, we must refer to the US law. According to the U.S. copyright law (Title 17, United States Code, Section 110), a public performance is any screening of a video cassette, DVD, videodisc or film which occurs outside of the home, or at any place where people are gathered who are not family members, such as in a school, library, auditorium, classroom or meeting room. Movies with public performance rights are movies which have been purchased or licensed with the legal right to screen them in a public setting for a non-paying audience. Many vendors sell titles in two licensing versions: a version licensed for home use only (typically cheaper and without public performance rights) and an institutional version that is more expensive but includes public performance rights, permitting screenings for a non-paying audience in an institutional context. If you are a student, instructor, librarian and film enthusiast who wants to to show movies in a public setting for clubs, classes or organisations, please make sure that unless the movie is in the public domain or you acquire the movie with public performance rights, you will be violation the provisions of the copyright law. Just as you cannot rent a movie from the local video store and then screen it in a public space (because the rental is licensed only for home viewing), you cannot show movies in a public setting without first determining if you have permission to do so, even if you're not charging admission. This legal position has been accepted in India. This has mildly recognised in the Indian Copyright Act and also by the Indian courts and also applied in practice by the film industry and copyright owners of films. In order to comply with copyright law, you should get the material from a vendor that rents or sells the title with public performance rights. The only exception to this rule is the face-to-face teaching exemption in which an instructor shows the material in a classroom as part of a class or teaching activity and not for recreation or entertainment. To acquire public performance rights of a movie in India, you should first obtain written consent of the producer of the movie. If the performer, who for example, is an actor in that movie, claims performers' right, then his/her consent shall also be obtained for incorporation of his performance, Therefore, it is advised that you enter into a written agreement with the film producer and performers and to acquire public performance right, you will be required to pay them royalty.

If a movie is in public domain in the US/UK, yes it can be screened for commercial purposes in India subject to the provisions of Indian Copyright Act and the respective copyright laws of US/UK and in accordance with the written consent obtained by way of agreement between the parties.

Disclaimer: The above query and its response is NOT a legal opinion in any way whatsoever as this is based on the information shared by the person posting the query at and has been responded by one of the Divorce Lawyers at to address the specific facts and details.

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