If a movie is banned in its home country, can distributors in other countries legally publish it? For example can it be streamed on Netflix or distributed as DVDs elsewhere except the home country?


1 Answer 1


Movies, as property, are not legal or operating entities, and thus don't have "home countries". So movies themselves are not subject to the laws of any given country.

But whoever owns (or is making) the movie is subject to the laws of at least one, and often multiple, countries. This allows pressure to be brought against the owners - say, fines, jail time, or just revoking access to certain resources - which may affect decisions about distribution or creation. Treaty ties and traditional relations may also expand the "reach" of a country's influence. So whether a film is distributed in a given location is whether it is legal (and practical) to do so for whoever owns it.

Note this only applies to a legal release - black market releases (say, copyright piracy) are an attempt to subvert this, even in the "home" country of the owner.

Short answer: Yes. Long Answer: Politics (and copyright ownership) is complicated.

  • Thanks for the reply! So the producer can be fined by their home country if they sign a distribution deal with a company in another country? If the home country is corrupt they can come up with some BS reason for the fine, whereas if the home country has a strong legal system, there would already have to be some law in place for the censorship or whatever authority to issue a fine?
    – Jet Blue
    Nov 4, 2018 at 23:49
  • Forget "home country" for the moment. If I - a US citizen - make a movie critical of Opressistan, the government of Opressistan might issue a warrant for my arrest, or fines for my production company. However, since I'm not physically in Opressistan (or my company doesn't operate there), their ability to enforce this approaches zero. If however, I frequently visit their neighbor, Timidia, or my company does business there, they might be able to pressure Timidia to do whatever. The movie was not released in either country. Nov 5, 2018 at 4:05
  • The options open to a country attempting to block or hinder a movie release (or whatever else) is pretty broad, and not really relevant. The spectrum between "corrupt" and "legitimate" is also mostly irrelevant - what matters is 1) you've been sanctioned, and 2) whether it's enforceable in whatever jurisdiction you're actually in (or can be extradited from). Nov 5, 2018 at 4:15
  • For a long time A Clockwork Orange was banned (not by government but by its distributor) in the UK. It was still regularly shown in other countries. The ban was only lifted after Kubrick's death.
    – matt_black
    Nov 6, 2018 at 16:15

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