What You Need To Know About Movie Copyrights

Posted by Paul Murray on Monday Jul 15, 2013 Under Tips

Movie Copyright 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.

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Southern Outdoor Cinema takes the stress and guess work out of hosting a movie theater-quality event outdoors and under the stars. Southern Outdoor Cinema doesn’t just rent movie screen equipment, but instead we share nearly a decade of movie event production experience with our clients to help them produce outdoor movie nights that are extraordinary. For a free consultation contact Southern Outdoor Cinema at www.SouthernOutdoorCinema.com

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Understanding Movie Copyright Laws

Posted by Paul Murray on Friday Mar 23, 2012 Under Tips

March is Copyright Awareness Month. Anytime a movie is shown outside the privacy of a home, a “public performance license” is required by law. This includes showing movies outdoors on an inflatable movie screen at schools, parks and churches.

Hollywood movies and films are copyrighted pieces of artwork. Permission to show these types of media in a public setting is required from the copyright holder. To obtain permission to show movies outside of your home, you must obtain a ‚ÄúPublic performance license”. A public performance license is required even if your outdoor movie showing is free. A movie license is required regardless even if your movie event is organized by a non-profit or government agency. In other words, you cannot just bring a DVD from home and play it in a public setting.

Consequences for showing movies illegally are high. Individuals and organizations found not obtaining a public performance license for showing of a movie in a public setting may be fined up to $250,000 with possible jail time. The FBI warning at the beginning of a dvd explains this in detail.

Some public viewing of movies are exempt from not needing to obtain a public performance license. Under the “Educational Exemption” rule, a public performance license is not required by law. To qualify for this exemption, all of the following criterion must be met:

  • A teacher must be present during the movie showing
  • The showing of the film must be in a classroom setting
  • The movie viewing is part of the school curriculum

Southern Outdoor Cinema is qualified to secure the licensing for your event. SOC works with its clients to help them become copyright compliant for their outdoor movie showings.


Southern Outdoor Cinema, LLC, is the LARGEST producer of outdoor movie events in the United States for professional sports teams, movie studios, film festivals, marketing agencies, Fortune 500 Companies and cities. Using cutting edge outdoor cinema equipment paired with a proprietary movie event planning system, Southern Outdoor Cinema helps clients create highly successful and highly entertaining outdoor movie events. To learn more about Southern Outdoor Cinema, visit http://www.SouthernOutdoorCinema.com

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