Copyright Compliance and Public Performances
The Federal Copyright Act specifies that 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 Swank 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:
- Could result in expensive fines and fees and negative publicity.
- Prevents those who worked hard on a film from receiving their just compensation.
- Essentially steals 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.
- Whether a federal, state or local agency is involved.
- What year the movie was produced.
This means colleges, universities, public schools, public libraries, day care facilities, parks, recreation departments, summer camps, churches, private clubs, prisons, lodges, businesses and more all must properly license movies to show them publicly.
Do I need a license to show a movie for educational purposes? This activity is covered under the “Face-to-Face Teaching Exemption,” right?
It depends. Under the "Face-to-Face Teaching Exemption," copyrighted movies may be shown in a college or university setting without copyright permission only if all criteria are met:
- A teacher or instructor is present, engaged in face-to-face teaching activities.
- The institution must be an accredited, nonprofit educational institution.
- The showing takes place in a classroom setting with only the enrolled students attending.
- The movie is used as an essential part of the core, required curriculum being taught. (The instructor should be able to show how the use of the motion picture contributes to the overall required course study and syllabus.)
- The movie being used is a legitimate copy, not taped from a legitimate copy or taped from TV.
This means the "Face-to-Face Teaching Exemption" does not apply outside the nonprofit, in-person, classroom teaching environment. It doesn't apply to movies shown online – even if they’re part of course-related activities and websites. It also doesn't apply to interactions that are not in-person - even simultaneous distance learning interactions. It doesn't apply at for-profit educational institutions either. For specific requirements, please reference The Copyright Act of 1976, Public Law No. 94-553, 90 stat 2541: Title 17; Section 110(i), or consult your copyright attorney.
Who can provide me with the proper licensing?
Only Swank can provide the necessary licensing to show films on your campus on behalf of the studios we cover.
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? What if someone owns the movie?
Yes. A license is required for all public performances regardless of whether admission is charged. 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.
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. There are no annual licenses available to colleges and universities.
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.