TRUSTED ADVISOR AND ADVOCATE
TRUSTED ADVISOR AND ADVOCATE
The Ontario Film Authority (“OFA”) regulates film distributors, exhibitors, and retailers in Ontario by administering the Film Classification Act, 2005 (“FCA”). Their mandate is to protect consumers and enhance professionalism in the film industry. In doing so, the OFA requires distributors, exhibitors and retailers to acquire a licence in order to ensure they meet and maintain certain levels of honesty and ability to comply with the law. If registrants violate the FCA or its regulations, the OFA has the ability to charge an individual or business with a provincial offence or refuse, limit, suspend, or revoke a licence. The OFA employs a “Registrar” who makes these administrative decisions regarding a licence.
The OFA also classifies films into the familiar "General", "Parental Guidance", "14A", "18A", and "Restricted" classifications.
Burokas Law acts as a OFA lawyer in representing film distributors, exhibitors, and retailers in regards to applying for and maintaining a licence to do business in Ontario. Services include:
Applying for registration with the OFA involves meeting both prescribed requirements and a general test for registration. The prescribed requirements can be found in Ontario Regulation 452/05. Once an applicant meets the prescribed requirements, he/she are entitled to a licence unless:
If the applicant does not meet this test for a licence, the Registrar will issue a Notice of Proposal to Refuse the application. The same test applies to licence holders. If the Registrar believes a licensee does not meet this test, he/she will issue a Notice of Proposal to suspend, apply conditions, refuse to renew, or revoke a licence as the case may be. The Notice of Proposal will outline the administrative action sought, the reasons why, and the right of the applicant/licensee to appeal.
A applicant or licensee has 15 days from service to appeal the Registrar’s proposal. Appeals are heard by an independent tribunal named the Licence Appeal Tribunal (“LAT”). They will first hold a “case conference”- an informal teleconference with a member of LAT- to facilitate settlement, agree on facts, set obligations and timeline for disclosure of evidence, schedule hearing dates, or determine the existence of pre-hearing motions.
Hearings at LAT
Hearings at LAT are structured similar to a criminal trial, although slightly less formal. The member LAT will likely hear oral and documentary evidence from both the OFA and the appellant before making determinations on contentious factual issues. They will then apply those findings to the general test for registration outlined above to determine whether the Registrar’s proposed administrative action should be carried out, no carried out, or not carried out subject to conditions. LAT’s procedure rules are outlined within their own Rules Practice and the Statutory Powers and Procedure Act, 1990.
The OFA may employ inspectors to inspect business premises of a licensee for the purpose of ensuring compliance with the FCA and their ongoing eligibility for a licensee. During an inspection, an inspector may examine documents, records, films, compel the production of such, and remove them for further inspection.
Investigation and Prosecution
The OFA may also employ investigators to investigate contraventions of the OFA or questions regarding a licensee’s fitnesses to hold a license. This may involve obtaining a search warrant authorizing the investigator to enter places and seize possible evidence similar to the Police investigating a criminal offence.
A licensee is guilty of an offence if they fail to comply with any section of FCA or regulation. Individuals convicted under these Acts are liable to a fine up to $50,000 ($250,000 for corporations) and two years less a day in prison. They will first be served a summons to appear in the Ontario Court of Justice location closest to the alleged violation. There will be a serious of appearances leading to a conventional trial if the matter does not resolve. The trial will be conducted similar to a criminal trial where the prosecution and defence will have the opportunity to call their evidence and challenge the opposing party's evidence.
Charges under the FCA are considered a Provincial Offence that will not lead to a criminal conviction but will seriously impair an individual's or business's ability to acquire or retain a licence with the OFA or another regulator.
If you are (or are seeking to be), a film distributors, exhibitors, or retailer and need some assistance with the OFA, please don't hesitate to contact Burokas Law