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Laws governing the film industry and how films are made and shown

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From the passing of the first Cinematograph Act in 1909, the British government has sought to regulate the film industry across the board: the legislation in this section covers everything involved in the production and exhibition of films from financing to censorship, together with attempts both to define a film's nationality and set a minimum quota to ensure that sufficient British films were shown.

Broadly speaking, film legislation falls into four categories:

Cinema legislation - which governs the running of cinemas, specifically licensing and health and safety issues. These were first laid out in the 1909 Cinematograph Act and have been revised and refined throughout the subsequent century.

Content legislation - which seeks to define suitable and unsuitable material for exhibiting on cinema screens. Examples of this include the 1937 Cinematograph Films (Animals) Act, which bans unsimulated animal cruelty, and the 1978 Protection of Children Act, which bans indecent images of children. Copyright legislation also falls under this category.

Quota legislation - in 1927, the Cinematograph Films Act sought to boost the British film industry by making it a legal requirement for cinemas to show a minimum number of British films, a well-intentioned policy that ultimately had decidedly mixed results. Subsequent Films Acts have also sought to define a film's nationality, specifically its 'Britishness', usually for tax reasons.

Financial legislation - in 1949, the Government established the National Film Finance Corporation, and the next three-and-a-half decades saw various initiatives aimed at supporting the British film industry, most notably the 1957 'Eady levy', which ploughed a percentage of box-office takings into production.

Michael Brooke

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