The French Cinematography and Audiovisual Registry (RCA) is the depository of the titles of cinematographic and audiovisual works intended for public representation in France, as well as of the deeds, contracts and court and arbitration orders relating to their production and exploitation.
The RCA has been recently subject to a structural reform aimed at modernising and simplifying its procedures. We take this opportunity to provide a brief description of its operation in light of the recent changes.
What is the RCA and how does it work?
As of May 16, 2015 the RCA is a subdivision of the French film authority, the CNC (Centre National du Cinéma et de l’Image Animée).
Previously it was a standalone structure placed under the authority of its custodian (conservateur des registres du cinéma et de l’audiovisuel) near the CNC, which was the counterpart of the former real estate mortgage registrars (conservateurs des hypothèques) abolished back in January 2013. With the new reform, the RCA custodian was abolished and its rights and liability for the past have been passed on to the CNC.
The mission of the RCA service of the CNC is to receive and register the information regarding the film titles and the related documents and to ensure their availability to the public.
This means that:
when verifying the documents received the CNC does not assess or certify their validity; it may only refuse registration for technical or procedural grounds.
documents registered with the RCA are opposable to third parties that cannot claim to have ignored them (although they can still challenge their validity); reversely, unregistered documents for which registration is mandatory cannot be enforced against third parties.
It has been judged for instance that in the absence of publication of its distribution agreement:
(a) a distributor’s copyright infringement claims against the seller of a counterfeiting film were not admissible in court; and
(b) a German distributor having acquired rights in the German speaking territories from a French co-producer could not prevent the exploitation of the same rights in the same territories by another distributor who purchased them at a later date from the co-producer’s liquidator.
In case of conflicting provisions between two registered documents, the order of prevalence is given by the registration date, regardless of their actual effective dates, with the first recorded document prevailing.
the CNC is liable to all interested parties (i.e. the parties to the deeds, contracts or court or arbitration orders concerned, but also third parties having relied on the information in the public registers) for faulty omissions and unjustified delays or refusals in recording the data submitted. Claims for damages can only be brought within a limitation period of 10 years from the date when the fault was committed.
The RCA service manages two registers:
the register of cinematographic and audiovisual works or RPCA (“registre public du cinéma et de l’audiovisuel”), and
the register of options (“registre des options”).
While the first contains information regarding existing works or works in progress for which the producer owns the rights, the second is dedicated to projects for which the producer has secured an option to acquire the film rights at a later date.
Registration of the film title with the RPCA is compulsory for cinematographic works (i.e. films of any nationality intended for theatrical exhibition in France) and must occur before the issuance by the CNC of the screening permit (« visa d’exploitation »). It is generally not compulsory for the other films but it is required for films benefitting from financial contributions from a SOFICA and conditions the payment of the COSIP investment and reinvestment funding.
Registration with the register of options is always non-compulsory.
In any event, documents can only be registered in relation to a film or project previously or simultaneously referenced with the RCA, thus the first step is to register the title (working or final).
The range of documents to be registered is very broad and extends from the chain of title (assignment of film rights, film production and coproduction agreements, corresponding court orders, etc.) to any contractual document, deed, security interest, lien, or court or arbitration order that is likely to operate a transfer or a limitation of the exploitation rights in the film or of the rights to the film’s elements, results and proceeds. Foreign productions are however subjected to lighter requirements (for instance, for the title registration, the author agreements may be replaced with certificates of authorship in the form required by the RCA).
A list of types of documents that are subject to registration is provided in section L123-1 of the Cinema Code but it is not exhaustive.
The Supreme Court has judged for instance in 1999, regarding the film Diary of a chambermaid featuring Jeanne Moreau, that to the extent the main actor’s employment agreement was providing for a share in the film receipts, it needed to be registered with the RCA. Since it was not registered, the assignee of the rights in the film, who was not a contracting party, had no obligation to pay the corresponding amounts.
A particular application of the contract registration with the RCA is the “délégation de recettes” or “cession de recettes” under which financial partners (investors, credit institutions) can benefit from direct payment by the users (distributors, broadcasters, etc.) of their rights in the film’s receipts, without transiting the producer’s accounts. This is an important incentive for financial partners to support films as it helps secure their reimbursement. If the contract is published in the RCA, the users have the obligation to pay the financial partner instead of, and before the producer, up to the amount owed by the producer. If a user ignores the registered contract and pays the producer instead, the financial partner can claim the money from the negligent user.
The documents are generally filed in French language. For documents originally drafted in other languages, full official translations in French (i.e. by an authorized translator in the EU/EEA or Switzerland) are required.
There is an exception for documents originally drafted in English or Spanish: the party requesting registration can choose to supply only partial official translations covering at least the information listed in section D.123-2 of the Cinema Code, or if such translations are unavailable, a freely drafted summary of the aforementioned information and a statement that such summary is complete. However, as of May 16, 2015 the price for registering documents in English and Spanish only accompanied by unofficially translated summaries in French language is 50% higher than the price of the registration in French.
In terms of public access to the registers, the RCA online databases contain short excerpts from, or selective information regarding, the documents registered. Copies of the full documents can be obtained upon written request and payment of a fee of 1 per page. The initiative announced in 2014 to make available for free download soft copies of the documents has been abandoned.
Any attempt to limit the costs of obtaining the information can prove to be very expensive in the end, as shown in a 2004 decision of the Supreme Court: having only consulted limited excerpts from the main distribution contract, a subdistributor has missed an important requirement thereof: the initial assignor had conserved a right of prior written approval of the subdistributors. Or, the main distributor failed to obtain such approval. As a result, and despite the written guarantees given by the main distributor to the subdistributor, the subdistribution contract has been annulled and the unauthorized subdistributor has been ordered to pay damages to the assignor.
How much does registration/publication cost?
As of May 16, 2015 a list of service fees directly payable to the CNC have replaced the emoluments formerly received by the RCA custodian in amounts established by government decree.
The major change is that, whereas emoluments were calculated in direct proportion to the value of the documents submitted for registration, the amount of the fees is now established on a fixed basis, depending on the number of works concerned by each document and on the language of registration (as mentioned above).
This adds more transparency to the process but increases the entry fees for the producers of small budget films and is not always coherent (e.g. it appears that if an author is assisted by an agent entitled, like the author, to a % share of receipts, the filing fee for the agent’s contract is higher than the one for the author’s contract).
Below we provide a non-exhaustive table of comparison*:
Emoluments (before May 16, 2015)
Fees (as of May 16, 2015)*
Change of title
(before the reform there was no specific category for these agreements, they were subject to the fees established under 12. below if the authors received a share in the profits)
Distribution agreements (theatrical and other rights including video and VOD), foreign sales
0.08% of the total contract value VAT excl.
TV broadcast agreements
0.08% of the total contract value VAT excl.
Video and VOD agreements
Same as 5 and 6
First coproduction agreement
0.04% of the film budget value VAT excl. (if the first coproduction agreement registered is with a foreign partner only the French part of the budget is counted)
Following coproduction agreement(s)
0.04% of the financial support brought by the new coproducer or of its % share of receipts.
0.08% of the total contract value VAT excl.
Transfers of receivables (délégations de recettes) and assignment of debts
0.08% of the total contract value VAT excl.
Contracts providing for a sales or profit share, other than those in the categories above (cast, crew, agents, financial partners)
0.08% of the total document value VAT excl.
Additional fee for each additional work contemplated in the same document
* Please refer to the CNC website (www.cnc.fr/rca) for the full list of prices and the appropriated registration forms.
 Law n° 2015-177 of 16 February 2015 – article 18 amending the Cinema Code (Code du cinema et de l’image animée)
 Their attributions were transferred to the land registrars Services de publicité foncière – specialized services within the tax administration department
 See for instance an old decision of the Supreme Court – 1st chamber, March 18, 1980 – Kafian vs. Agabra – a former distributor of a film, whose rights in the film expired has subsequently assigned the rights to a third party. At the request of the producer, the third party that had failed to consult the RCA has been ordered to pay to the first damages for copyright infringement and was not even allowed to return against its contractor who acted in bad faith for guarantee.
 Paris Court of Appeals, 5th chamber, February 22, 1991, Skil Video vs. ABC Design – Dalloz 1992, p. 75, comments by Théo Hassler
 Paris Court of Appeals, 4th chamber A, July 10, 1991, Hellthaler international GMBH vs. France Videogrammes – Dalloz 1992, p. 72, comments by Théo Hassler
The COSIP (“Compte de Soutien à l’Industrie des Programmes Audiovisuels”) is a fund created in 1986 to help financing the production of television films broadcasted on French TV – the CNC financial contribution is proportional to the investment made by the TV channel.
 Supreme Court, 1st civil chamber, March 30, 1999, Greenwich film production vs/ Moreau.
 The benefit of these systems are provided under section L124-2 of the Code
 See for a recent example Supreme Court, commercial chamber, October 23, 2012 no.11-23599, Natixis Coficiné vs/ France Télévisions: Natixis had granted a loan to a producer that the latter guaranteed with transfers of receivables under the tv broadcast agreements for various films. Natixis registered the contracts with the RCA. But the broadcaster France 3 paid the broadcast fee for 3 films directly to the producer. Natixis requested in court that France 3 repays it the same amounts, but France 3 was arguing that the contracts between Natixis and the producer were not enforceable against it because it was not its name, but the name of its affiliated company France Televisions who was specifically mentioned in the contracts. The Supreme Court restates the exact provisions of the Code, judging that the only case where the contracts published in the RCA would not be enforceable against France 3 is if its name was expressly excluded from their scope, which was not the case.
 In any event the RCA may, in case of doubt regarding the original content, request a full translation.
 Supreme Court, 1st civil chamber, May 12, 2004 – Studio Canal image vs/ Thames Télévision international ltd.
 Section L125-2 of the Cinema Code and decree no. 67-513 dated June 30 1967 as last amended by decree no. 2006 – 410 of April 5, 2006 – yet to be repelled