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Showing Movies on Campus

Nov. 19, 2012

For a variety of reasons there are times when faculty, staff, and students would like to show movies on campus. Before pressing play you need to know a few things. First, movies are protected by the Federal Copyright Act. This means that you cannot simply show your group a movie in its entirety. When you rent, buy, or borrow a movie you do not obtain the right to show the movie to large groups. Rather, you receive the limited right to use the movie for personal viewing. All is not lost. If you take the appropriate steps outlined below you still can use the movie.

The Federal Copyright Act provides what is commonly known as the educational exception for showing movies. Section 110 (1) in the Copyright Act states that movies can be displayed by instructors under the following circumstances:

• In a nonprofit educational institution;

• In a face-to-face teaching activity;

• In a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction;

• The movie(s) are an integral part of the curriculum; and

• The copy to be shown is lawfully obtained.

It is important to know that you must satisfy all of these elements in order for the exception to apply.

If you are not showing the movie for educational purposes and do not satisfy all the criteria of Section 110 (1) of the Copyright Act you still may be able to show the movie if you first obtain the appropriate public performance license. The movie studios which own the copyright rights to the movies use various companies to license and distribute these rights for them. The license contains the terms under which you can show the movie publicly. The license will include things like how many times you can show the movie, the maximum number of people in your audience, and the fee you must pay. Once the license is executed the licensing company will send you the public performance copy of the movie. You must use this special copy of the movie during the public performance. Visit the website www.swank.com to learn more details about obtaining a public performance movie license.

If you have further questions about showing movies on campus please do not hesitate to contact the Office of General Counsel.