Film distributors are the ‘middleman’ between production companies and the audience. Production companies get a film made – from casting the performers right to the editing process. However, it’s the distributors who ensure the film reaches audiences. Needles to say, film distribution companies play a pretty vital role in the film industry. 

When it comes to starting your own film distribution company, there’s a lot of legal factors you need to consider. Whether it’s deciding the right company structure or making sure you have well drafted legal documents, much of starting your own film distribution company will involve some sort of legal process.  

However, the legal side of launching a film distribution company doesn’t need to be a total hassle. With the right expert help, legal matters can be taken care of rather quickly and simply. 

So, if your film distribution company is a serious business venture, let’s get started with the legal side of things. 

How Does Film Distribution Work? 

Once a production company has a film they’re ready to share with the world, they seek out distributors who are willing to host their project. 

Film distributors can utilise a number of different platforms such as cinema, home streaming or physical copies of films. However, the responsibilities of film distributors are not limited to simply showcasing the movie – they often need to market the film, ensure the film meets certain standards and even handle customer services.

Obviously, every agreement between a film distributor and production company will be different according to their needs and expectations. As a film distributor, it’s important to have strong contracts between you and the producers you work with (we’ll explore this in more detail later). It’s also beneficial to draw up a business plan. Film distribution is a pretty big industry. As a hopeful distributor, it’s important to carefully research your options, make detailed plans and organise your everything in one place.  

Start A Film Distribution Company In Australia: Legal Steps 

The legal steps to starting a film distribution company probably don’t sound very exciting. However, it is one of the most fundamental aspects of starting a company. The legal aspects play a role in safeguarding your company’s assets, limiting liabilities, securing revenue streams and much more.

A lot of your film distribution company’s future success will depend on how seriously you take the legal considerations. Being aware of this right from the start can help you avoid unnecessary troubles down the road. 

Decide On A Company Structure 

One of the most important decisions you will make regarding your film distribution company will come early on during the setup process. Determining the type of company structure your film distribution company is going to have will lay down the foundations for your company. Naturally, you want to make sure the foundations are strong and steady so nothing comes crumbling down. 

There are multiple types of company structures. For instance, it might be beneficial to have a Dual Company Structure or a Company Limited by Guarantee, depending on your film distribution company’s requirements. 

It’s a wise idea to have the help of a legal expert when it comes to deciding on the best structure for your company. A legal expert will be able to understand the implications of each structure and help you determine the right fit. Once you’ve figured out the right structure for your company, you’ll be able to register it with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC). 

Registering your company with ASIC can be somewhat of a complicated process if you’re not familiar with it. Firstly, you need to make sure you’re registering exactly the type of company you want. Additionally, registering your company also involves knowing who your shareholders and directors are, as well as deciding how your company will be governed. 

Each and every single one of these choices will impact the future direction of your company, so it’s a wise idea to have the help of a legal expert when going through this process. They can help make sure everything gets set up to work in your film distribution company’s favour. 

Protect Your Intellectual Property 

The next step to setting up your film distribution company is securing protection for your intellectual property (IP). Your IP is anything that has been created from the mind and isn’t tangible. Unlike registering your company, protecting your intellectual property isn’t a legal requirement. However, just because it isn’t mandatory doesn’t mean it’s not important. 

IP can be some of the most valuable assets that belong to your film distribution company. Things like logos, resources, writing and designs are all usually considered IP. If you fail to protect your IP, then there’s sometimes that can be done to enforce your rights when someone tries to infringe it. 

It’s better to save yourself the trouble and protect your IP from the start. How you protect your IP will depend on the type of IP itself. Registering a Trade Mark is the best way to protect your something like a logo. Remember, not everything is available to be trade marked, so it’s important to check IP Australia’s Trade Mark Search Tool before you begin filling out an application form. 

The application and process for registering a trade mark can be a  bit tricky – we always recommend having an IP expert help out with this. 

Other ways to protect your IP is generally through the right legal documents. Non-Disclosure Agreements and Copyright Disclaimers can help maintain the privacy and security of your IP. The exact legal instruments you will use to protect your IP will depend on your specific needs. It’s best to talk to one of our legal experts today, they can identify the key areas of risk and point you to the right legal solutions.  

Get Legal Documents Drafted 

The final step in registering your film distribution company is to get your legal documents professionally drafted. Legal documents are what binds your company together and keeps it safe. Running a film distribution company comes with its fair share of ups and downs. It’s much easier to navigate challenges when you have expertly drafted contracts in place that look out for your film distribution company. 

A few legal documents you may want to consider getting for your film distribution company include: 

As you can tell, there’s a number of different types of agreements to serve various parts of your film distribution company. It’s wise to talk to a legal expert about the exact documents you will need. We don’t recommend trying to draw up contracts by yourself or using generic templates – investing in legal documents that are catered specifically to your company are always worth the investment. 

What Else Do I Need To Know About Starting A Film Distribution Company? 

When you start a film distribution company, legally protecting it should be one of your highest priorities. However, it’s just as important to make sure your company is legally compliant as it is legally protected. 

Legal compliance is essential for any company. Regulations such as Australian Consumer Law (ACL) and employment laws impact company owners all across Australia. Ensuing you’re keeping up with the standards these regulations set, such as minimum wage, refunds and returns, quality of services and proper break entitlements are imperative. 

Not following through on these regulations could mean your film distribution company faces fines, investigations and even severe legal penalties. Furthermore, your company will suffer from a bad reputation in the community  (which is often hard to come back from) if it’s ever found to be in breach of the law. It’s best to talk to a legal expert and get some insight on the rules and regulations you need to be following so you don’t end up making any costly mistakes. 

Keep in mind, it’s not just the general laws you need to keep an eye out for. There’s also local regulations and industry specific laws. For instance, zoning laws will impact what can be done and where, while industry regulations will determine how your film distribution company can conduct itself. Knowing which laws to find and exactly how to be compliant with them can be confusing – not to worry though, our legal experts are always happy to help. 

Next Steps 

A film distribution company can be an exciting new business venture. When you start your company, it’s necessary to protect it by taking the right legal measures and ensuring it is legally compliant. To summarise what we’ve discussed:  

  • Starting a film distribution company involves significant legal considerations, including choosing the right company structure and ensuring all legal documents are well drafted to protect the company’s interests
  • It’s essential to have expert legal advice to help navigate the complexities of company registration with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) and to decide on the most suitable company structure 
  • Protecting intellectual property (IP) is critical for a film distribution company; this includes registering trademarks and ensuring legal documents like Non-Disclosure Agreements are in place to safeguard logos, designs, and other creative assets 
  • Professionally drafted legal documents such as Distribution Agreements and IP Licence Agreements are vital to secure the company’s operations and address specific needs effectively 
  • Legal compliance is just as important as legal protection; adhering to Australian Consumer Law, employment laws, and industry-specific regulations is essential to avoid legal penalties and maintain a good reputation 
  • Consulting with legal experts is advised to handle legal setups and compliance, ensuring the film distribution company is both protected and compliant with all necessary regulations 

If you would like a consultation on starting a film distribution company, you can reach us at 1800 730 617 or team@sprintlaw.com.au for a free, no-obligations chat.

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