As student organizations move forward with programming initiatives, we are compelled to remind campus members about the legal and acceptable uses of Video Tape/DVD and showing movies for the public. Video Tapes and DVDs that are available for purchase, rented from many commercial establishments, or checked out of the library are for home viewing purposes only. This means they can only be viewed in your private living spaces. For campus purposes, that means your residence hall room/suite. (For home purposes, it means anywhere in your private residence). The same rules apply for movies/television shows that are video taped at home on VCR’s.
Therefore anytime a group shows a movie in any context, the group must purchase the public viewing rights (copyright) for that particular showing. Copyright purchase for film currently runs between $100-$900 per showing for popular titles from major movie distributors. Independent films could cost less but must be negotiated with the holder of the copyright for those particular films. To pursue film rights, please contact the Student Activities Office.
Many of you may know that there is an exception to the public performance fees for college and universities. That exception is only in the case of face-to-face classroom instruction by a faculty member. The faculty member may show the film/movie outside the normal class period (at night for example), however, it is only for those students who are registered for the class. The movie must also be shown in spaces that are designated for instruction; therefore library screening rooms, residence hall or student union lounges, cafeterias do not qualify. A faculty member cannot show it for his/her class and then open it up to the rest of the campus. In order to invite others, the public viewing rights must be purchased. Acceptable attendance for films in which the copyright is not purchased only include students registered for the class, the instructor and guest lecturer(s).
Purchasing public viewing rights does not depend on variables such as audience size or charging of admission. Regardless if it is 3 people versus 300 people, size is not considered in determining if public viewing rights need to be purchased. (Size may, however, influence the amount of the public performance fee). Likewise you still have to purchase the copyrights even if you are offering the movie/film to the audience for free.
We know that showing a film is a fun and easy event to organize. Nevertheless, you must always keep in the forefront that just because you purchased the film, rented or checked it out, you cannot turn that Video Tape/DVD into a program. Public performance rights must be purchased and secured before advertising any event related to movie/film viewing. Failure to adhere to these guidelines (even if done so innocently and inadvertently) can result in fines from $750 to $30,000 per showing. If admission is charged to the event and the organization/person receives some commercial or personal financial gain, fines can range upward to $150,000 plus a year in jail.
Information is adapted from the Office of Campus Programs and Organizations at Albion College.