GET LEGAL FOR YOUR PUBLIC OUTDOOR MOVIE EVENT
There are two primary film licensing agencies for the film studios. These film licensing companies do not represent all of the same studios. If the movie you select is not available at one licensing company, contact the other to see if the title is available through them. Some popular movies, such as Star Wars, have not been available for outdoor screenings in years at the request of the copyright holders.
Here are the two film licensing companies that you should contact directly to secure the rights to show a movie at a public venue. The sales reps are very helpful about letting you know about the movies that are scheduled to be released on DVD right before your event. *They are not competitors they just represent different studios.
Copyright Compliance and Public Performances.
The Federal Copyright Act specifies copyrighted materials like movies can be used publicly if properly licensed. However, neither the rental nor purchase of a movie carries the right to exhibit it outside of one’s home. The good news is that Swank or Criterion can properly license movies for a copyright compliant exhibition.
What exactly is a public performance?
A public performance is the exhibition of a movie that is shown outside of someone’s home.
Why should I obey copyright law?
Violating copyright law through unauthorized use of a movie:
Leaves individuals open to embarrassing publicity, possible jail time and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.
Prevents those who worked hard on a film from receiving their just compensation.
Essentially robs motivation to create from authors, computer programmers, playwrights, musicians, inventors, movie producers and more.
A public performance licensing fee includes money paid to the entire cast and crew who worked on the film from start to finish. If these men and women do not receive this hard-earned revenue through sources like licensing fees, they may no longer invest their time, research and development costs to create new movies.
Who does copyright law apply to?
This law applies to everyone, regardless of whether admission is charged, whether the institution is commercial or nonprofit or whether a federal, state or local agency is involved.
This means businesses, colleges, universities, public schools, public libraries, day care facilities, parks, recreation departments, summer camps, churches, private clubs, prisons, lodges and more all must properly license movies to show them publicly.
What happens to those who violate copyright law?
Motion picture companies can and will go to court to ensure their copyrights are not violated. Those convicted could face embarrassing publicity, up to five years in prison and fines ranging up to $250,000.
Do we need a license even if we don’t charge admission?
Yes. A license is required for all public performances regardless of whether admission is charged.
What if someone owns the movie?
The rental, purchase, lending or download of a movie does not provide the right to exhibit it publicly outside the home unless the screening is properly licensed.
What if a third party says it is okay to exhibit the movie?
All movies are sold as “home use only” and do not contain legal permission for use outside the home. You can only obtain copyright licensing directly from a licensor (such as Swank) or the studio itself, not from a third party.
Who’s responsible if a film is shown without a license?
The management of the venue or premises where the movie is shown bears the ultimate responsibility and consequences of copyright infringement. However, anyone involved with the public performance of copyrighted material could be implicated.
If I purchased a license to show a movie, can I show that movie whenever I want?
Unfortunately, no. Licenses are valid for a specific, designated time frame. However, Swank can tailor this license to fit your needs.
A small group is having an informal gathering in our facility. Do we still need a license?
Yes. A license needs to be obtained regardless of the number of people attending the screening if the movie is being shown outside the home.