The Motion Picture Licensing Corporation Agreement
Film and television have long been mechanisms for promoting U.S. policy priorities and nurturing cross-cultural understanding.
The State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) Cultural Programs Division maintains a licensing agreement with the Motion Picture Licensing Corporation (MPLC), representing the department’s most comprehensive means for supporting public diplomacy efforts through film and TV. This agreement was renewed on September 15, 2017, and will be in effect through September 15, 2018, with four renewable option years (through 2022). If needed, a post can download a certificate of license issued by the MPLC that verifies the State Department’s licensing agreement.
This license grants embassies access to thousands of classic and contemporary titles to promote dialogue on core American policy priorities, such as rule of law, freedom of the press, women’s rights, religious freedom, human rights, civil society and more. Over 1,000 film production/distribution companies are covered under the agreement.
The scope of the MPLC agreement has broadened to include television programs produced and distributed by A&E, Comedy Central, Discovery, NBC, Fox, the History Channel and more. Currently, the MPLC agreement covers television programs from 78 production/distribution companies.
The Cultural Programs Division also works with posts to recruit directors, writers, distributors, anti-piracy experts and other film specialists to share American expertise in the business and creative aspects of filmmaking, such as marketing and distribution, special effects and computer animation.
How to Determine if a Film Can Be Screened
If a film is covered under the MPLC agreement, the distributor must be included on the MPLC’s current list of covered distributors and studios. To verify a film’s coverage status under the MPLC agreement, follow these steps:
- Enter the title of your film(s) in the IMDb (Internet Movie Database) website.
- On the film’s IMDb page, scroll down to the “Company Credits” section. This link will show you a list of the film’s producers and distributors. The distributing company is key to whether or not a film can be screened because the distributor owns the film’s public screening rights.
- Once you have determined the film’s distributor, open the Producer-Distributor List and the Studio List to see if the film’s distributor is listed as being covered by the MPLC agreement. If the distributor is listed, then the film is generally cleared for screening purposes.
- Note that all of the distributors on the Studio List impose either a six-month or nine-month delay on film screenings, beginning from the date of the film’s U.S. theater release date. This means that if a film’s U.S theater release date is in January, posts will not be able to begin screening that film until July or October, depending on whether the studio imposes a six-month or a nine-month delay. To determine a film’s U.S. theater release date, consult the film’s IMDb page.
MPLC Guidelines (FAQs)
After determining that a film is covered by the MPLC agreement, there are several programming guidelines that must be adhered to in order to be in full compliance with the agreement. Here are frequently asked questions.
Where Can Posts Screen Films?
Posts may hold public screenings for audiences at U.S. embassies, consulates, American Centers, American Corners and Binational Centers. If a designated American Space is in a remote location, posts may hold screenings in such locations, as long as they are under the direct control and supervision of a U.S. embassy or consulate officer. If a Binational Center is in a university, film screenings may only occur in the section designated as the American Space.
Can Films Be Screened Away From U.S. Government Premises?
Yes. Screenings may also be held on premises away from U.S. embassy, consulate and American Spaces, provided they are operated, sponsored and under the direct control of a U.S. embassy or consulate officer and in connection with a Department of State cultural program. Screenings must not compete or appear to compete with local theatrical distribution.
Can Posts Charge Admission to a Screening?
No. Posts may not charge admission for any public film screening.
Is There an Audience Size Limit Per Screening?
No. Films covered by the MPLC agreement may be screened for an unlimited number of persons per screening.
Is There a Limit to the Number of Screenings?
No. There is not limit to the number screenings post can organize. Posts may also screen the same film without a limit to the number of screenings.
Where Can Copies of Films Be Obtained?
Films available on home video, DVD or via a streaming format are permissible for screening purposes. All films must be legally sourced. Home videos and DVDs must be purchased from a legal vendor, whether they be from a brick and mortar location or online. Films streamed or downloaded must be done through legally recognized sources such as Amazon Prime, Hulu, iTunes, Netflix, etc. If a post decides to stream a film, the streaming provider must have a legally recognized presence in that country. If a post wishes to stream a film from a provider that does not have a legal presence to operate within the country, employing the use of a virtual private network (VPN), or any other device to evade geo-blocking, is in violation of the MPLC agreement.
Can Edited Copies of Films Be Screened?
No. Edited copies, such as airplane version of films, are not covered by the MPLC agreement.
Are Digital Cinema Package (DCP) Copies of Films Covered by the MPLC Agreement?
No. The licensing agreement does not cover DCP copies of films. A post would have to pay for the DCP copy of the film to be created, as well as for a separate licensing agreement. DCP costs vary, depending upon such factors as the distributor and the type of film being requested (feature, documentary, new release, etc.). However, a DCP copy of a typical feature film can cost anywhere from $500 to $1,000. If a post is interested to acquire a DCP copy of a film, please email MPLC@state.gov with this request.
Are Film Stills and Other Related Artwork Covered by the MPLC Agreement?
No. The licensing agreement does not cover the fees for using films still and artwork. If a post is interesting in using stills or artwork for promotional purposes, please email MPLC@state.gov with this request.
Can Films Dubbed into Another Language Be Screened?
Yes. Films that have been legally dubbed in another language may be used for screening purposes.
Can Films Be Modified, Dubbed or Subtitled by a Post?
No. Films may not be duplicated, edited or modified in any way without the explicit permission of the film’s producer. This includes subtitling or dubbing the film into another language. The MPLC license cannot grant this right.
How Can a Post Request a Film to Be Subtitled in a Language Not Currently Available?
Posts must request permission and negotiate subtitling directly with the film’s producer. ECA can provide producer contacts to posts. Please note that typical subtitling costs are approximately $8.00 per minute. Additional fees for script translation and to create a new file of the film typically apply, as well. This means that one feature length film can cost several thousands dollars. Apart from being costly, this type of request is also time consuming and takes months to fulfill, if the producer even agrees to take on the request. Finally, these requests are difficult to put forward. It is not a straightforward process. Therefore, if a post is interested to have a film subtitled, there needs to be total upfront commitment to the cost and time associated with this type of request.
Can Film Screenings Be Advertised?
Film titles, characters, producers, directors, actors, images or anything else directly associated with the film cannot be advertised or publicized to the general public via newspaper, radio, television or by any other public platforms. Please note that these promotional restrictions are per studio requirements and are not imposed by the MPLC.
However, U.S. embassy and American Spaces websites, U.S. embassy and American Spaces social media platforms, U.S. embassy and American Spaces newsletters and email mailing lists may be used to advertise the details of a screening. Handouts about film programs may also be posted and distributed on American Spaces premises.
Can Post Screenings be Advertised by Non-U.S. Government Organizations?
No. When a post sponsors a screening to be part of a local film festival or to be held at a non-U.S. government location, those partner organizations are not permitted to advertise the film being screened in any way. This includes referencing the film’s title, director, actors, plot, etc. Please note that these promotional restrictions are per studio requirements and are not imposed by the MPLC.
However, non-U.S. government organizations are permitted to use generic language describing the fact that a post is sponsoring a screening, which can include a link to post’s website or social media platforms with more specific information. Additionally, partner organizations cannot retweet or repost promotional content from the embassy’s or consulate’s online platforms that directly reference the film being screened. It is strongly recommended that this point about no advertising be clearly and thoroughly communicated to non-U.S. government organizations.
Are PBS Films Covered by the MPLC Agreement?
No, PBS films are not covered by the MPLC agreement. However, PBS does allow titles designated as “AV Item” to be screened under a limited public performance rights. This means that AV item films may be shown in a classroom or screened by a public group for educational purposes, when no admission is charged for the viewing. Screenings of AV item designated films may be transmitted on a closed-circuit system within a building or single campus. In order for this film to be screened under PBS’ limited public performance rights, the film must be purchased through teacher.shop.pbs.org and be marked “AV Item.” The film cannot be purchased through any other channel and still be covered under PBS limited public performance rights. This purchase does not permit a post to duplicate or alter the program for any purpose, to distribute the program through any wide access network (internet, open cable, open broadcast, LAN, satellite, telco, etc.), or to digitize, encode and/or place the program on a digital server.
Suggested Film Titles By Category/Genre/Theme
ECA’s Cultural Programs Division in the Office of Citizen Exchanges has researched and compiled a list of film titles covered by the MPLC agreement. These titles have been organized into various categories (American Directors, Black History Month, etc.), genres (Film-Noir, Westerns, etc.) and themes (Entrepreneurship, Human rights, etc.). This list is for internal use only and is not for public distribution.
The various categories, genres and themes in this document are by no means comprehensive and will be further updated through continued research into existing titles and with new titles as they are released.
Be advised that the titles on this list have not all been previewed by the Cultural Programs Division. The inclusion of each title represents a suggested and/or potentially relevant film, not an endorsement. All posts are advised to preview film titles privately before screening them publicly to ensure that all thematic material and content is culturally and programmatically appropriate for their intended audiences.
Please send any MPLC-related questions to MPLC@state.gov