BBC Films

Rights & clearances checklist

filmmaking guide

Rights & clearances checklist

Legal checklist of the rights and clearances that you'll need to get your film cleared to show in public.


Rights and ownership can seem scary but it's vitally important to know what rights you have and what rights you are giving to other people. Before submitting your film to festivals, competitions, websites etc you need to make sure that you own the rights/have acquired full permission to do so.

Rights checklist:

Are you the copyright holder of the film?

The first copyright owners of a UK film are the Producer and the principal Director. However if a third-party was involved in the production, exhibition or distribution of a film (e.g. a screen agency, record label, film school, commissioner, distributor etc) they may hold some/all of the copyright. For more information on copyright see our Legal Guide: Copyright

Did you receive funding for your film?

If you received any funding for your film (e.g. from a screen agency, commission, organisation or business etc.) you'll need to check what rights to your film the funder retained. For more information, see our Legal Guide: Funding

Does your film have a distributor?

If your film has a distributor you need to be clear who owns the film and who has the right to give permission for the film to be screened on television, the internet or in film festivals. For more information on distribution terms, see the section on distribution in our Filmmaking Guide: Distribution

Have you signed any other contracts?

If you have signed any contracts for your film to be shown elsewhere (e.g. festivals, competitions, broadcast, online, DVD etc.), you'll need to check which rights you granted them. For more information see the relevant rights sections of our filmmaking guides on Festivals, Television, DVD, Online.


You'll only be able to distribute and screen your film in public if it is 'cleared'. This means that you have written permission to use everything and everyone that appears in your film.

Clearances for showing your film on Film Network

If you submit your film to Film Network, it's your responsibility to ensure that you have obtained all the necessary clearances in writing. If somebody claims your film breaches their 'copyright' (e.g. you have used them/their identity/their work in some way without their consent), it is you, as well as the BBC, who are liable. If you have breached copyright, at the very least you will not be able to continue to show your film and you could end up being sued. Please check that the clearances you have obtained include internet use ('All media' covers internet as well) and should ideally be for use in territories throughout the world, in perpetuity (indefinitely).

Make clearances as you go along, as soon as you can, rather than trying to get permission retrospectively after you've shot your film. You may find that you encounter unexpected problems getting clearances for music or images, the most common one being how expensive it is to license well known music tracks. If you can't obtain a release for anything, use an original substitute instead.

Clearances checklist:

Script clearances: If your script is an original work of fiction then make sure none of the characters resemble an actual individual (living or dead). Real people must not be clearly identifiable, and if they are, should not be used unless you have their express written permission. Otherwise, make sure the names of the characters are fictional and their characteristics do not solely and undoubtedly resemble real life individuals. If you do base your idea on a real event, make sure you have written permission from all people involved including permission from living relations of the deceased, if applicable. For more information on script clearances including original works and adaptations see our Legal Guide: Writing as well as the script clearances section in our Legal Guide: Content Clearances - script

Content clearances: Anything that appears in your film needs to be cleared. This includes: products, logos & brand names; clips, stock footage, tapes & images; font, text & designs; famous works & people. For more information, see our Legal Guide: Content Clearances

Music clearances: Any music, including published and original music, you use in your film needs to be cleared. For more information, see our Legal Guide: Music Rights

Location clearances: For more information, see the section on location agreements in our Legal Guide: Production Agreements - location

Actor's/contributor's clearances: Any actor or contributor who appears in your film needs to have signed a clearance agreement. For more information, see the section on engaging an actor in our Legal Guide: Production Agreements as well as the section on Legal Guide: Publicising Your Short - Actors Consents'

Related Guides

As mentioned above, see our other legal guides for more information:

Legal Guide: Writing

Legal Guide: Copyright

Legal Guide: Content Clearances

Legal Guide: Music Rights

Legal Guide: Funding

Legal Guide: setting up a production company

Legal Guide: Health & Safety

Legal Guide: Insurance

Legal Guide: Production Agreements

Legal Guide: Publicising Your Short

Legal Guide: Filmmaker FAQs

Related Links: Legal

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