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Contest Rules

Original Film. Original Music. Inspired by the Public Domain.

The purpose of the Public Domain Film Festival is to promote a greater understanding of copyright and public domain materials. The festival provides an opportunity for student filmmaking teams to exercise their creativity while respecting the purpose of copyright law: to promote creativity.

Registered teams will have ten days to create an original screenplay, film, and musical score inspired by works recently entered in the public domain.

A broad selection of public domain works included in the festival are available on this website, but teams will be assigned only a few of these public domains works at the film festival's Launch Event. Learn more about how we will assign public domain works to each team on the Launch Event page on this site.

Entries will be judged according to the judging rubric available on this website. Please note that the integration of and inspiration from a team's assigned public domain materials weigh heavily on the judging rubric in most award categories.


  1. Teams must register before the festival Launch Event on January 26th, 2024. Each team must designate an individual to fill the roles of producer, director, screenwriter, and composer. Two or more of these roles may be filled by the same individual, but each team will need to designate an award recipient for each role category for administrative purposes such as award disbursement, communication, etc.
  2. Each team will need a Team Captain. The Team Captain will be responsible for responding to communications from the contest organizers to ensure the team is fully compliant and qualified before the beginning of the contest.
  3. Teams may have as many members as they desire, so long as all crew members are current BYU, BYU-Idaho, or BYU-Hawaii Students. Teams may use actors or musicians that are not BYU, BYU-Idaho, or BYU-Hawaii students in their films. All actors will be eligible to receive the prize award for Best Acting Performance, so long as they are nominated at submission.
  4. No student may be registered as a producer, director, screenwriter, or composer on more than one team. However, students may participate as actors or musical performers for more than one team, even if they're registered in one of the four primary team roles on a different team.
  5. For interested participants who do not yet have a team, or for teams interested in recruiting crew members or actors for specific roles, the event website will feature a crew and talent directory. Actors or crew members may sign up for this directory to exhibit their willingness to join a team and list their qualifications. It is the responsibility of individual participants and team captains to ensure all teams are finalized before the festival’s start date. Please note, adding your name to this directory does not guarantee that you will be added to a team to participate in the competition.
  6. The Draft: During the Launch Event on January 26th, 2024, teams will participate in a Public Domain Works Draft. Team Captains will take turns selecting the public domain works they would like to use in their films. It is very possible that not every team will get to use the public domain work they prefer. We encourage teams to become familiar with a variety of the public domain works listed on the event website before this draft so they can use suitable alternatives to their first choices.
  7. All films must be no more than five minutes long.
  8. All films must be limited to original footage recorded during the festival’s time window. Films cannot include any third-party video or previously recorded video other than footage from their selected public domain film.
  9. All music used in the film must be arranged or composed by the team’s composer and recorded during the festival’s time window. No other music may be used regardless of copyright status, ownership, or permission.
  10. In addition to the five-minute film, teams will also be required to submit a video of their crew answering an explanatory questionnaire to explain how their work incorporates and uses their selected public domain materials. This is a required part of each team’s entry and will be sent to the judges to help them deliberate during scoring.
  11. Each team must upload their video entry by 5:00 PM MT on February 5, 2024, either in person at the Copyright Licensing Office in the Harold B. Lee Library or digitally at the available upload link. The door to the Copyright Licensing Office automatically locks at 5:00 PM and the upload link will be set to expire at the same time. Please be aware of rendering, export, and upload times and don’t miss your deadline!
  12. All submissions should adhere to the BYU Honor Code; submissions with explicit language or content will be disqualified.
  13. Cash prizes for award winners will be distributed to a single team representative as a VISA Gift Card. It is up to each individual team to decide how to split any prize money awarded. Awards for Best Picture and Audience Favorite will be given to the team’s producer. The award for Best Score will be given to a team’s composer. The award for Best Screenplay will be given to the team’s screenwriter. The award for Best Acting Performance will be awarded to the winning actor. The award for Best Director will be given to a team’s director. The award for Best Production Design will be given to a team's producer. The award for Best Sound Design will be given to a team's producer.
  14. All submissions will be covered under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license.
  15. Current Copyright Licensing Office employees and immediate family members are not eligible to collaborate with any team or participate in any project.
  16. One of the award categories requires audience voting and participation LIVE at the screening event, and potentially during an online session. More details about voting for this award will be made available. Any attempt to violate the rules and procedures for these voting sessions will result in disqualification of the team's film for ALL AWARD CATEGORIES. Examples of the type of behavior that violate this rule includes: calling individuals not present at the screening to cast votes for the public screening, providing information to individuals to have their votes unfairly multiplied, counted, or included, knowingly soliciting votes from individuals that have not viewed the films they're voting on, etc.
  17. Use of AI:
    1. Generative AI - Any use of AI to substitute original content creation or production work for the purposes of this festival are prohibited. All scripts, filming, photography, and music must be created by individual festival participants.
    2. AI Editing and Refining Tools - Tools that exist within existing editing software that refine participant-made content, or merely speeds up technical processes, are permitted.
    3. This non-exhaustive list may help you further understand permitted uses and unpermitted uses.
      1. Unpermitted Uses
        1. Using AI to write any portion of your script
        2. Using AI to generate CGI characters or graphics that are essential for the story
        3. Using AI to generate images to be used as backgrounds or in compositing for video
        4. Using AI to write music or produce a musical recording
      2. Permitted Uses
        1. Using AI to spell check scripts or check scripts for clichés and bad language
        2. Using AI for color grading
        3. Using AI tools to help with audio mixing
  18. The contest organizers reserve the right to deduct points for failure to comply with the rules of the competition including, but not limited to, rules 8-12.
  19. Dangerous Filming Practices
    The BYU Copyright Licensing Office does not condone any film practice that is inherently dangerous and puts crew or performers at risk of spiritual, emotional, mental, or physical injury. We expect film festival participants to adhere to industry best practices in safety standards, and expect that the limited scope of the 10-day production will limit practices that might be possible for productions with more resources.

    Prohibited practices include:

    • Stunts without qualified stunt coordinators
    • Real firearms and other combat-ready weapons on set
    • Any form of sexual harassment, 
    • Manipulation or discrimination on the basis of race, gender, sex, sexual orientation, religion, genetic information, veteran status, marital status, pregnancy, citizenship, political affiliation, ancestry, or age. 
    • Trespassing
    • Pranks of strangers or involving strangers without their consent
    • Filming in ways that obstruct vehicle traffic
    • Filming in conditions that prevent performers or crew from accessing necessary facilities for prolonged periods

    These issues come up often in the film industry and we expect you to take structured filming opportunities during your student tenure to learn how to navigate them with maturity. We reserve the right to disqualify any film that has endangered any of its crew or performers by not adhering to proper film best industry practices.