Lights, Camera, Action! Laws Protecting Child and Animal Actors

13 November 2018

Lights, Camera, Action! Laws Protecting Child and Animal Actors

Emma Watson, Macaulay Culkin, Lindsay Lohan, Drew Barrymore and Shirley Temple are all celebrities who were once known as child actors. Children are used for kids’ TV shows, adverts and corporate videos to give their products a special feel. Similarly, movies starring animals have always been popular because they provide unambiguous family entertainment and can make tons of money on slender budgets. Universal Pictures’ two Beethoven movies reportedly grossed more than US$200 million, whilst Free Willy, a 1993 American family drama film featuring a whale, reportedly grossed US$153.6 million. However, with reports of child abuses and animal cruelty in the past, there is a need to ensure that children and animals are kept safe and that their wellbeing are protected during filmmaking.


This article seeks to provide an overview of some of the laws available in Malaysia to protect the employment of children and young persons as well as use of animals within the entertainment industry.


Malaysia’s Children And Young Persons (Employment) Act 1966 is designed to regulate the employment of children and young persons in terms of working hours, type of work and others, including for public entertainment. The act generally applies to employees under 18 years of age. The act defines a child as any person who has not completed his 15th year of age; a young person refers to any person who, not being a child, has not completed his 18th year of age.


Therefore pursuant to the Children and Young Persons (Employment) Act, a child is any person aged under 16, whilst a young person applies to those aged 16 and 17.


The Children and Young Persons (Employment) Act permits the employment of a child and a young person in public entertainment, in accordance with the terms and conditions of a licence granted under the act. The act defines “public entertainment” as “entertainment to which the public or any section of the public is admitted or in connection with which any charge, whether for admission or not, is made or at which any collection or subscription is received and includes performances for the making of films for public exhibition other than news films but does not include any entertainment given by the pupils of any school registered under the *Education Act 1961 [Act 43 of 1961] at or under the auspices of such school, or any entertainment promoted by a voluntary, social or welfare body which has been approved by the Director General.” “Entertainment” is defined as including “any exhibition or performance; and a person is deemed to take part in an entertainment when such person is employed in or connected with such entertainment whether as a performer, stage-hand or musician.”


A child and young person will not be allowed to shoot or rehearse for more than six days a week. Children can only work up to six hours between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m., and if the child is attending school, the child may not be employed for more than seven hours a day, which includes the period which the child spends at school. Any time spent doing actions or performing are limited to three consecutive hours with a period of rest of at least 30 minutes;


Young persons, on the other hand, can work up to seven hours in any one day or, if the young person is attending school, for a period which together with the time he spends attending school does not exceed eight hours. Young persons are only permitted to work between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m.


The act requires entertainment industry employers who wish to employ youths under the age of 18 to obtain permission to employ the minors from the Director General of Labour or by such other Director General as may be authorized in writing in that behalf by the Director General of Labour. The licence shall provide inter alia the maximum number of performances to be given in any one day or week; the maximum number of performances to be given consecutively; the hours of the day between which a child or young person shall not take part in a public performance; that no performance shall exceed four hours in duration; and that the child or young person shall not take part in any performance which is dangerous to life, limb, health or morals.


The Animal Welfare Act 2015 (AWA) was enacted to provide for the establishment of the Animal Welfare Board, to set out the functions of the board and to promote the welfare and responsible ownership of animals. Section 15 of the AWA provides that no person shall carry on the activities involving animals as specified in the Schedule unless he holds a valid licence granted under this act. The AWA specifies “performing animal” as an activity that requires a licence.


Animals which are used for the purpose of any entertainment, exhibition, sports, audio-visual recording and animal shows will constitute “performing animals” (Section 2). The AWA requires persons using “performing animals” to obtain a license and such application shall be accompanied by such documents or information as the board may consider necessary and relevant to the application and the board may, orally or in writing at any time after receiving the application and before the application is determined, require the applicant to provide such additional documents or information as the board considers necessary for the purposes of determining the suitability of the applicant for the licence.

About the author

 Janet Toh

Janet Toh

Janet Toh is a partner at Shearn Delamore & Co in Kualar LUmpur, where she focuses on intellectual properyt and protection and ownership, advertising, consumer protection, copyright, domain names, ranchising, gaming, ad regulatory approvals for food, drugs and cosmetics as well as distributorship, licensing, outsourcing, service and consultancy agreements. She has also conucted due diligence of various acquisition projects, IT-related contracts, e-commerce and telecommunications, IP protection for leading multinational companies in the pharmaceutical, tobacco and internet-related services industries.

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