Articles - Poster copyrights

Does copyright law also protect movie posters and playbills?

To answer this question, jurisprudence relies on the law of April 22, 1941, No. 633 On copyright:

Copyright protects works of creative nature belonging to literature, music, visual arts, architecture, theater, and cinematography, regardless of the mode or form of expression.

Therefore, the majority of film posters and playbills that you find online cannot be used without a usage license granted by the rights holder.

Thus, in order not to infringe the law, it is very important to know the rules for the proper use of images.


Copyright, a protection for the author

Copyright is an inherent right obtained automatically at the moment of creation of the work, which protects literary and artistic property worldwide.

Its contents are divided into:

  • Moral right: which allow claiming authorship of the work by opposing any deformation or modification.
  • Patrimonial right: which consist of the exclusive right to exploit the work economically by limiting reproduction, distribution, or adaptation.

The author of the work can transfer the economic rights to another party who, becoming the official owner, can dispose of them as they wish. The term “copyright” cannot be taken literally because the true author of the image does not necessarily coincide with the holder of its exploitation rights.

Copyrights of movie posters and playbills

The school of Italian Master Painters of Posters is appreciated worldwide for its high artistic level. During most of the 20th century, these painters created almost all the images of posters and playbills used for film releases in Italy.

As owners of both moral and economic rights, they granted their works under a temporary usage license, limited to exploitation in theaters, to distribution companies.

Subsequently, the majority of them, or their heirs, transferred the economic rights of use and exploitation of the works to S.A.C. S.r.l..

S.A.C., in turn, subsequently licensed these rights to its concessionaire, Webphoto & Service S.r.l..

The Copyright

The right to copy

The term “copyright,” which generally refers to copyright law, protects posters and playbills as works of creative nature in Italy, as well as in many other countries worldwide.

More accurately, this term should be referred to in relation to the US law that regulates the right to copy on a work, emphasizing the aspects of economic exploitation.

“The reproduction of a work constitutes a form of economic exploitation protected by Article 13 of the law on copyright protection.”

Although the legislation explicitly refers to economic return, even in the absence of profit, it is still necessary to obtain consent from the rights holder to use a protected work.

Why turn to Webphoto & Services?

Unauthorized use of posters and playbills by the holder of the economic rights is subject to civil, administrative, and criminal penalties. Therefore, it is essential to identify the true rights holder of the works you want to use.

Webphoto & Services, as the concessionaire of S.A.C. for the rights acquired from the Painters, has the authority to license the respective images. In particular, they have licensable images of posters and playbills from approximately 20,000 films.