Outdoor movie events are all about fun; getting together with family and friends in the community and enjoying a new film or an old favorite. If you are the one planning the event, though, you have the responsibility of making sure your event complies with movie copyright law. If you have never put on a movie event before, you might not understand exactly what these rules mean and whether or not your event must be licensed as a public performance. This quick guide will give you a basic understanding of movie copyrights and assist you in determining if one is needed for your event.
When you purchase or rent a movie, it affords you the right to view the movie in your own home with close friends or family. What you do not have the right to do is host a public screening of the movie. Copyright laws are in place to protect those involved in the production of films (movie producers, script writers and others) since these professionals receive royalty fees when their work is sold, performed and used.
Who needs a public performance license? You might be surprised at the many types of individuals and entities required to obtain a public performance license before hosting a movie screening. Government run agencies like parks and recreation departments, nonprofits, churches, schools and universities, individuals and businesses are all required to obtain a public performance license prior to hosting a public outdoor movie or other movie event.
What types of events need public performance licenses? You might assume that only events that charge admission must secure a public performance license; but any event, whether admission is charged or not, must comply with copyright laws. There is an exception for movies used in a classroom setting, but the requirements for this exception are very specific and must be strictly adhered to. The movie screening must take place in a classroom setting with the teacher and only enrolled students present, and the movie must relate to the core areas that are currently being studied. The movie must also be a legitimate copy of the film.
Each time you view a DVD you see the FBI warning, but you may not pay much attention to it. This warning is about copyright laws. Many of the royalty fees paid to artists involved in producing movies come from licensing fees, and copyright law is meant to protect these artists and ensure they are fairly compensated for their work. The penalty for non-compliance includes possible jail time of up to five years, and a penalty of up to $250,000.
If you are planning an outdoor movie event, whether you are a business creating an event as part of your marketing strategy, a church hosting an event or anyone else planning a public movie screening; it is best to do your homework and determine if your event requires a public performance license. In most cases you will find that you do need one.