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 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.