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Ontario Film Classification -- what do you guys do now?

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  • Ontario Film Classification -- what do you guys do now?

    Unlike the USA where film classification is apparently "voluntary", provincial laws in most of Canada require that all films being exhibited publicly must be classified by the respective provincial film classification agency.

    For the past couple of decades, Saskatchewan has just adopted the BC film classification so anyone who gets a film classified in BC just pays an extra fee of however-much and that classification is valid in Saskatchewan. Ontario and Manitoba have also been doing the same thing though I'm not sure how long they have been using the BC film classification system.

    I was looking up a classification on the BC website earlier today and discovered that they had conveniently moved the classification lookup page that I have bookmarked so I had to go hunting for it.

    In the process of digging out the new location for the webpage that I needed, I came across mention that Ontario no longer used the BC film classifications and instead requires exhibitors to provide consumers with information about the film's content.

    The BC film classification website now says "Anyone using our classifications must have our written permission to do so. Our film classifications, including ratings, advisories, and decision summaries are copyright protected and may only be used for a commercial purpose with our written permission. The unauthorized use of our copyright material may result in legal action under the Copyright Act. That also means that if we classify a film or trailer for distribution to a theatre in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, or BC, that classification is strictly limited to those provinces and must not be used for distribution to theatres outside these provinces, including Ontario."

    Which leads to my question: What source are you folks in Ontario actually using for the purpose of providing "information about the film's content" now that the BC film classification is apparently off limits? Do you use MPAA ratings? Something else?

    Are MPAA ratings actually public domain or would you need permission to use those too?

    This doesn't affect theatres in Saskatchewan since we still have the BC film classification system as a legal requirment.

  • #2

    Film content information in Ontario

    Learn about the requirement for exhibitors to provide film content information for most films shown in Ontario. More information can be found by reviewing the Film Content Information Act, 2020.
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    To reflect changes in the marketplace and increased use of digital platforms, there is no longer a requirement to provide movie ratings for films shown in Ontario. The Film Content Information Act, 2020 requires film exhibitors to provide consumers with information on a film’s content instead.

    For example, this may include:
    • the age of the intended audience
    • depictions of violence
    • coarse language
    • use of tobacco or other substances
    Film content information

    Exhibitors must provide information about a film’s content in advance of exhibition to support informed viewing choices.

    Examples of information that could be provided include:
    • intended age of the audience of the film (for example, suitable for 15 years and over)
    • nudity/sexual activity or adult themes
    • violence
    • coarse/obscene language
    • substance use (for example, tobacco products, vapour products, cannabis)

    The film content information must be displayed at the exhibition’s premises, or otherwise made available to the public in advance of exhibiting the film to support informed film viewing.

    Exhibitors must also provide consumers with contact information for any questions or complaints.

    Adult sex films are still required to be approved by any Canadian jurisdiction that engages in the review and approval of adult sex films.

    The act continues to prohibit the sale, rental or exhibition of approved adult sex films to persons under 18 years of age.
    Video games

    Video games are rated by the industry-led Entertainment Software Rating Board. The sale and rental of video games is restricted based on requirements contained in the act.

    Updated: June 8, 2021
    Published: June 8, 2021


    • #3
      Are MPAA ratings actually public domain or would you need permission to use those too?
      The MPAA (now MPA) ratings are not public domain. They are copyrighted by the MPA and may not be used by anyone who does not pay to get their movie rated. The exception was "X" which could be self-applied, which led to the porno industry adopting it for themselves. The MPAA finally gave up and created the NC-17 rating, which they copyrighted.

      They are also only suggestions for parents, there is no legal enforcement to the ratings and if you try to write them into law the MPA will be there defending their copyright.


      • #4
        They are copyrighted by the MPA and may not be used by anyone who does not pay to get their movie rated.
        But what about people playing the movie? Can just anybody put the MPAA rating on their listing that says, "Now playing right here in this theatre"?

        I'm wondering where the folks in Ontario are supposed to get the "information about the movie" that they are now required to provide to their customers. Does this now turn into one of those write-it-in-your-own-words exercises like we used to have in school?

        I don't understand how a movie rating/classification can be claimed as copyrighted anyway. "This movie is rated PG-13 by the MPAA" or "This movie is classified 14A by the BC Film Classification Board" is merely factual information. "The house across the street is blue." "My dog's name is Rex." "A rainbow has seven colours." All of these things are simple statements of fact and none are either a creative or an original work.


        • #5
          Let me possibly correct myself, as I learned about the ratings over 40 years ago and I may have conflated what the MPAA's representative told me (yeah, I called them when I was in High School). The ratings are probably registered trademarks, since you can't copyright a letter. If you look at American posters, the ratings have a specific look and language, and an MPA bug, and have a little ® next to them. They may be both trademarked and copyrighted (the descriptive language). Nonetheless, they are owned by the MPA and they will enforce their ownership, especially against any gov't agency that tries to write them into the law. They whole premise of the ratings is that they are "Voluntary" and not assigned by government agencies.

          I guess as long as the information is factual, you can put it in an ad. You can't apply and "R" to your own movie, thus implying it was rated that way by the MPA's rating entity. (It does remind me of Sweet Sweetback's Badassss Song which billed itself as "Rate X by and all white jury" which was false on both accounts but a great sales pitch).

          The MPA has certain rules for how advertising the ratings is supposed to look (Bobby could probably find a spec sheet for us). The MPA is more concerned about advertising created by the studios than that created by an indie theatre whose ads they never see. Not sure if they approve every ad and trailer, but probably claim the right to.


          • #6
            Movie ratings only make sense if they are public information and can most certainy be freely listed. But putting an "MPA rating" onto your own movie isn't copyright infringement, it would be both trademark infringement, but even more severe, it would be a case of forgery.


            • #7
              I'm surprised each province has it's own film classification entities. Why not just have one and make it country wide? Save some bucks in the process.... Here is't just the MPAA