Film production. Legal aspects

A foreign producer planning to produce a film independently in Poland must complete the necessary formalities and fulfil the obligations set out in respect of entrepreneurs under Polish law. No matter what form of business activity they elect to run, it must be registered in Poland and the accounts must be kept in Polish. However, given the opportunities and facilities which await foreign producers in Poland, the simplest form of activity in the filmmaking field is co-production with a Polish partner.

In 2002, Poland ratified the European Convention on Cinematographic Co-production, which is binding upon forty European countries. It guarantees that co-productions undertaken by producers from the signatory countries enjoy a status equal to that of national films. It also guarantees the rules of fair cooperation, as well as facilitating matters such as the crossing of borders. Countries bound by the Convention are obliged to facilitate the entry, residence and granting of work permits on its territory for the technical and artistic personnel of other parties participating in a co-production. Each party is also obliged to permit the temporary import and re-export of the equipment necessary to the production and distribution of cinematic works produced within the framework of the Convention.

The Convention applies to:

  • co-productions involving at least three co-producers based in three different countries bound by the Convention;
  • co-productions involving at least three co-producers based in three different Member States bound by the Convention, as well as one or more co-producers who are not based in those Member States; however, the total contribution of the co-producers who are not based in the Member States may not exceed 30% of the total production cost;
  • bilateral co-productions, in the absence of any agreement governing bilateral co-production relations between two parties to the Convention.

The Convention establishes the principle that, in case of a multilateral co-production, the minimum contribution may not be less than 10% and the maximum may not exceed 70% of the total cost of the production of the film. However, when the Convention takes the place of a bilateral agreement, the co-producer’s contribution may be no less than 20% and no more than 80% of the total production cost.

The Convention regulates the matter of the co-producers’ technical and artistic participation, stipulating that the contribution of the co-producers’ creative, technical and artistic personnel, as well as that of a given co-producer's technical equipment, must be proportional to the investment made by the co-producer in question. Co-producers must also be guaranteed both joint ownership of the original picture and the sound negative and the right to an internegative or to any other medium of duplication.

The European Convention on Cinematographic Co-production applies to European cinematographic works which have acquired co-production status. The term ‘European cinematographic work’ is understood as a work involving an appropriate number of creative and technical personnel, as defined, respectively, by the Convention, in the creative group and technical craft group, from the co-producing states. In order to acquire co-production status, the relevant applications should be submitted to the authorities designated by the Member State/Party to the Convention two months before shooting begins.

Poland has also entered into bilateral co-production agreements with France, Canada, Israel and India, pursuant to which, the co-producers’ financial contribution must total from 20% to 80%, while the creative and technical contributions should be proportional to the parties' share of the film’s budget. The agreement also allows for projects implemented within its framework to be multilateral co-productions with third-party countries which have entered into individual agreements with France, Canada, Israel and/or India.

Employment Law

As a Member State of the European Union, Poland guarantees EU citizens the free movement of people, goods, services and capital. This includes equal access to the labour market and the recognition of educational and professional qualifications. Although the regulations pertaining to the employment and economic activity of foreigners on the Polish market impose some restrictions on third country nationals, the Polish legislature is systematically introducing new improvements in this respect.

Polish law identifies various groups of people who are authorized to work in Poland without the necessity of obtaining a work permit. They include the citizens of the European Union and the states with which the EU has entered into agreements on the free movement of people. People who hold a Polish residence or settlement permit may also work in Poland without a work permit. In addition, Polish law lists categories of people who, by virtue of the particular nature of their activities, are exempt from applying for a work permit. This group includes foreigners who, either individually or in teams, perform services over no more than thirty days per calendar year. These services include performances given by actors, directors, reciters, conductors, instrumentalists, singers, circus performers, dancers and mime artists.

Employment in Poland is based on a written contract of employment which may be open-ended or fixed term or cover the period of time required to complete a specified job. Two types of civil contract relating to the commissioning of work and services may also be entered into, a contract for specific work (umowa zlecenia) and a contract of mandate(umowa o dzieło). Agency agreements may also be concluded. Both a natural person and an entrepreneur of any kind may be party to a fixed-term civil contract. The provisions which should be included in a contract of employment are set out in detail in the Labour Code (Kodeks Pracy) and in the provisions for civil law contracts stipulated in the Civil Code (Kodeks Cywilny).

Contracts for specific work and contracts of mandate are most frequently used in the film production process. In the case of a contract of mandate, the contractor undertakes to perform the designated work and the commissioning party undertakes to remunerate them for that work. This is thus an agreement based on an end result, where the contractor is obliged to provide the film producer with the outcome set out in the contract. In the case of a contract for specified work, which is also referred to as an agreement of due diligence, the contractor's commitment is to carry out the work in question with due diligence. Other types of contract used in the film production process relate to copyright and are discussed in the Copyright section.

Economic Law

The citizens of the EU Member States, as well as those of Norway, Iceland, Lichtenstein and Switzerland may undertake and carry out economic activities under the same conditions as Polish entrepreneurs. This also applies to people who hold a Polish residence or settlement permit. Other foreigners may only engage in business activity in the form of a limited partnership, a limited joint-stock partnership, a joint stock company or a limited liability company (spółka z ograniczoną odpowiedzialnością; Sp. z o.o.). They can also join such companies and acquire and purchase stocks and shares in them.

The most common form for conducting a business activity in the Polish film industry is a limited liability company. It can be formed by one or more partners, although not by another single-person limited liability company alone. The shareholders are not liable for the company’s obligations; however, they are obliged to contribute share capital to the sum of at least PLN 5 000, which equates to around EUR 1 190. The company is liable for its obligations by way of its own assets. It is also obliged to pay corporate tax (CIT). Anyone wishing to establish a limited liability company must

• draw up the Articles of Association;
• pay in the share capital;
• appoint the company’s governing bodies;
• register the company in the National Court Register’s register of entrepreneurs (Krajowy Rejestr Sądowy [KRS]; rejestru przedsiębiorców).

In the course of these procedures, the company’s areas of activity are defined on the basis of the Polish Classification of Activities (PKD) which is fundamentally similar to the international classification (NACE). The division of shares among the shareholders is also determined. At the same time, the company is registered with the Social Insurance Institution (ZUS, Zakład Ubezpieczeń Społecznych) as a payee and it is assigned a National Official Register of Business Entities identification number (REGON; Rejestr Gospodarki Narodowej) and a NIP tax identification number (Numer Identyfikacji Podatkowej). The entrepreneur is also obliged both to pay taxes and due payments such as VAT, income tax, tax withheld on remunerations and social insurance contributions and to submit tax declarations and financial reports.


The term copyright refers in general to the rights of an author of a work whereby the author is entitled both to determine its use and to benefit from it. Polish law distinguishes two types of copyright:

• moral rights (personal rights; osobiste);
• property rights (majątkowe).

Moral rights protect the relationship between the author and the work. They are permanently assigned to the author, do not expire over time and are inalienable; in other words, they cannot be transferred to other persons. However, the author may agree not to exercise these rights.

Property rights protect the material well-being of the author, who can benefit from the work and may manage its use in exchange for remuneration. The author may transfer either all of their property rights, or a specified range, to other persons.

The producer acquires the rights to a film by concluding agreements on the transfer of property rights with the co-creators of the film, including, but not limited to, the director, cinematographer, screenwriter, production designer, costume designer, special effects director and composer. The most common practice is to conclude one contract of mandate with the co-creator, covering the execution of the work and the transfer of copyrights and, in the case of an already completed or ready-to-use work, such as a script, covering the transfer of copyrights alone.

It is worth noting that the transfer of all property rights does not deprive the author of the exclusive right to decide on the implementation of what is known as dependent copyright. The scope of the rights granted depends on the substance of the agreements entered into. Agreements should always be concluded in writing and should set out the terms agreed between the parties in detail. For example, if the producer plans to use stills and visual sequences from a film in order to create promotional materials such as posters and trailers, then the agreement with the cinematographer should contain either a clause stipulating the terms of the use for stills and visual sequences beyond the film itself, or an undertaking on the part of the cinematographer to the effect that they will not exercise personal copyright in such a way to conflict with the producer's legitimate interests. The exception is the right to translate the film into other languages ​​without the consent of co-creators; this right is assigned to the producer. It should also be remembered that, unless otherwise provided for, the rights acquired under the agreement may be resold.

Legal Assistance


60-774 Poznań, ul. Szewska 15 lok.4
tel. +48 691 555 020


00-669 Warsaw, ul. Emilii Plater 10 lok.57
tel. +48 22 407 21 01, fax +48 22 407 00 01


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61-728 Poznań, ul. 3 Maja 47 lok.2 
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03-916 Warsaw, ul. Walecznych 34 lok.2
tel. +48 22 813 21 34, fax +48 22 813 21 35


02-583 Warsaw, ul. Wołoska 9A
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35-329 Rzeszów, Al. Krzyżanowskiego 8 lok.3
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tel. +48 12 421 78 80, fax +48 12 398 37 38

50-056 Wrocław, ul. Wierzbowa 15 lok.50
tel. +48 71 727 72 21, fax +48 71 722 04 22


00-582 Warsaw, Al. Szucha 2/4 lok.53
tel./fax +48 22 403 45 00, +48 22 414 53 00



31-226 Krakow, ul. Vetulaniego 1A
tel. +48 606 214 254, +48 503 099 391, fax +48 12 415 68 53


00-429 Warsaw, ul. Rozbrat 32 lok.6
tel. +48 22 252 49 81, fax +48 22 258 48 55


61-777 Poznań, ul. Woźna 9 lok.B
tel. +48 61 222 47 48, fax +48 61 222 47 49


02-531 Warsaw, ul. Łowicka 62
tel. +48 22 646 42 10, fax +48 22 646 28 77

40-094 Katowice, ul. Słowackiego 13
tel. +48 32 730 02 00 / 01, fax +48 32 730 02 02

80-838 Gdańsk, ul. Targ Rybny 11A lok.4
tel./fax +48 58 305 46 63


02-087 Warsaw, al. Niepodległości 223 lok.8
tel. +48 22 498 16 84, +48 22 498 16 95, fax +48 22 499 44 37


80-831 Gdańsk, ul. Piwna 1/2 lok.102
tel. +48 58 354 26 34, +48 600 910 961
82-300 Elbląg, ul. Kilińskiego 47 lok.13


02-808 Warsaw, ul. Zięby 40/52a
tel. +48 691 526 370

Collective Copyright Management Organisations

There are active collective copyright management organisations in Poland which bring together artists, performers, producers, or radio and TV broadcasting organisations under their aegis. Their task is to protect the copyright entrusted to them; they accomplish this by managing the rights, collecting the fees for the use of copyrighted materials from the users and paying royalties to the respective artists and authors.


00-832 Warsaw, ul. Żelazna 28/30
tel. +48 22 581 43 60, fax +48 22 581 43 61

The Union of Audiovisual Authors and Producers operates within the structures of the Polish Filmmakers Association. It protects the rights of producers of audiovisual works, as well as those of the directors, cinematographers, production, costume and art designers, sound engineers and editors.


00-536 Warsaw, Al. Ujazdowskie 45
tel. +48 22 696 79 00, fax +48 22 696 79 09

The Association of Polish Stage Artists represents the interests of performers and artistic personnel. It manages the copyright of directors and theatrical designers, as well as the neighbouring rights of performers, namely actors, soloists, singers and dancers.


00-092 Warsaw, ul. Hipoteczna 2
tel. + 48 22 827 60 61-9, fax + 48 22 828 92 04
00-158 Warsaw, ul. Nalewki 8
tel. +48 22 635 51 77, fax +48 22 635 55 46

The ZAiKS Authors’ Association manages the rights to literary works, musical works, combined literary and musical works, choreographic works and mime works, as well as to literary, musical, combined literary and musical and choreographic works in audiovisual productions.


There are a number of insurance companies offering film production insurance in Poland. The choice is not overly extensive; on the other hand, the premiums are not exorbitant.

In the case of damage to equipment, wardrobe or scenery, the insurer will cover the costs of replacement items and costumes, as well as that of renting replacement equipment in working order and organising a new set. The protection afforded by the insurer compensates for losses incurred through the disruption of the production as a result of adverse weather conditions or the incapacitation of the leading actors by way of sickness or an accident, for example. Insurance policies protecting the media containing the footage are also offered, as is liability cover against personal injuries to, and damage to the property of, third parties. Completion Bond and Errors & Omissions (E & O) insurance policies are available as well, which are useful at the film distribution stage, protecting the producer in cases of unintentional infringement of copyright.


59-220 Legnica, ul. Kolbego 18
tel. +48 76 745 40 86, fax +48 76 745 40 87


00-355 Warsaw, ul. Tamka 38
tel. +48 22 211 16 70, +48 504 162 791, fax +48 22 211 16 71


40-047 Katowice, ul. Kościuszki 66
tel. +48 32 606 78 55-8, fax +48 32 354 20 32

61-777 Poznań, ul. Woźna 11
tel. +48 61 855 05 15-7, fax +48 61 853 06 12


00-753 Warsaw, ul. Gagarina 9 lok.35
05-230 Ossów, ul. Rozwadowskiego 35C
tel. +48 22 840 85 21, +48 604 580 584, fax +48 22 840 85 22 


01-695 Warsaw, al. Słowiańska 20 lok.8
tel. +48 22 832 11 89, +48 22 392 96 47, fax +48 22 427 89 57


87-100 Toruń, ul. Szosa Chełmińska 177/181
tel. +48 56 669 33 00, fax +48 56 669 33 04

02-703 Warsaw, ul. Bukowińska 10 lok.98
tel. +48 22 654 12 50, fax +48 22 654 12 49


05-160 Modlin Twierdza, Nowy Dwór Mazowiecki, ul. Malewicza 117 lok.12
tel. +48 695 555 333, +48 22 713 01 00, fax +48 22 713 04 00 


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