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Fall 2014

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“We are not what we know but what we are willing to learn.”
˜ Mary Catherine Bateson


Public Performance of Videos
Public Performance Rights for Movies and the Face to Face Teaching Exemption

PUBLIC PERFORMANCE OF VIDEOS:  The Associate Director’s Office has received
many inquiries regarding the use of video tapes as part of organization activities; thus it is important to share the following legal information with BSU organization officials.

The law and you:  Five facts every video tape user must know!

•    FOR HOME USE ONLY means just that!  Without a license, it is illegal for you to exhibit video tapes publicly, outside of your home and beyond the scope of your family and your close friends.

•    Video tapes RENTED from retail stores confer no other license.  Retailers cannot offer you legal protection if you exhibit their tapes in a public performance setting.

•    Video tapes PURCHASED from retail stores confer no other license.  Owning a tape doesn’t provide you with public performance protection.

•    Showing rented or purchased video tape in a public setting can be a copyright violation EVEN IF YOU DON’T CHARGE ADMISSION.

•    If you are suspected of copyright infringement, there is now a very good chance that you will be prosecuted.

PERFORMANCE (Information taken from SWANK film catalog/web page:

What establishes a “public performance”?

Suppose you invite a few personal friends to your home for dinner and a movie.  You purchase or rent a videocassette movie from your local video store and you view the film in your home that evening.  Have you violated the copyright law by illegally “publicly performing” the movie?  Probably not.  But suppose that you took that same videocassette and showed it to 100 people at the student union.  In this case, you have infringed on the rights of the movie’s copyright holder.

The owner of the copyright of a motion picture, etc. has the exclusive right to perform the copyrighted work publicly.  This is a federal law that applies in every state.  Examples of an unlawful “public performance” would be playing a videocassette of the movie GONE WITH THE WIND in a video lounge, student union or a residence hall common room accessible by the residence population without a proper license.

If I don’t charge admission, do I still need a license?  Yes.  The copyright laws apply whether or not an admission is charged.

What if my video store says that it is okay?  Local video stores are in the business of renting videocassettes for home use only and cannot provide you legal protection.  Ownership of the tape, etc. and the right to show it publicly are two separate issues.  The copyright holder retains exclusive public performance rights to that program.

What about tapes that I own?  The purchase of a videocassette from a source such as a local video store or retail outlet does not convey or carry with it the right to exhibit that cassette, etc. in public or semi-public locations.

Isn’t a residence hall my home?  Individual rooms where students sleep or study are completely different from common rooms such as lounges and other public or semi-public areas within a residence hall.  Any situation in which a closed circuit distribution is used requires licensing; and certainly, any exhibitions in common areas-even though they are restricted-require licensing.
(See “Face to Face Teaching Exemption” on next page)


 The following are examples of public screenings and are illegal unless the film title being shown is a copy which was obtained with “Public Performance Rights”:
  • in residence hall floor lounges
  • in the cafeteria via radio or television
  • in common rooms open to residence hall populations
  • in the campus library
  • in the Student Union
 A public performance license is needed when using videotape programming in any public or private location where the audience extends beyond the scope of a single family and close friends.
It is illegal to conduct a public showing without first obtaining the necessary license for the program.  Without such license, the public showing becomes a copyright infringement and the violators can be prosecuted and held liable for fines, penalties, court costs, and legal fees upwards of $50,000 per abuse.  The copyright laws apply whether you charge admission or not.  There are no distinctions between profit and non-profit groups.  Ownership of an individual video tape does not give one the right to show it in a public place; it is for HOME USE ONLY.
Not having the budget to pay for the license (and thus the royalties) is not an acceptable reason for renting from a local distributor and showing a video in a public area.    
Authors, producers, studios and lawful distributors are the copyright holders and are due rightful compensation for the public showings of their creations.
Anyone connected with the illegal showing of a copyrighted film can be named in a copyright infringement suit.  This includes student organizations, academic departments, organization advisors, and college officials as well as the individual who knowingly operated the equipment at the illegal showings.
 Face-to-Face Teaching Exemption
 Use of a copyrighted film in classroom teaching, other than educational broadcasting, is a public performance which is exempt from the licensing requirement if all of the following conditions are met:
  • The “performance” (showing of the film) must be by the instructor or pupils.
  • The performance must be a part of face-to-face teaching activities.  The teacher and students need not actually be able to see each other, but they must be present simultaneously in the same general area.  Although one needs to be flexible about indirect delivery of a film to a single classroom, in general, the exemption does not include remote transmission of any sort, including closed circuit or cable originating from another part of the school.  (An educational broadcasting exemption exists, but does not apply to movies.
  • The performance must be a part of the teaching activities of a non-profit educational institution.  The teaching activities must involve systematic instruction rather than recreation or entertainment (regardless of the cultural value or intellectual appeal of “high-concept” pictures).  
  • The presenting location must be a non-profit school of some sort.  Foundations or associations or other non-profit “educational” institutions are not exempted.  Neither the recreational film series presented by a faculty advisor of a college nor a face-to-face classroom instruction using The Red Shoes at a commercial dance studio are exempt under this provision.
  • The performance must occur in a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction.  The exemption is for classroom, not school performances.  Residence hall, student union, or other space devoted to educational programming would be considered a classroom as long as all other conditions above are met.  Professional staff would be considered the instructors if they meet conditions included above.  Professional staff includes:  Vice Presidents, Directors, Associate Directors, Assistant Directors, and Residence Hall Directors.  Pupils would be considered college students currently enrolled for courses.  Performances during school assembly, graduation ceremony or other general school event are not exempt.
  • The performance must not use a film copy which was illegally made and which the person responsible knew or had reason to believe was not lawfully made.
  • Please remember that showing a film without first obtaining the copyright puts the university, college, your organization and yourself at risk of liability which can include fines, penalties, court costs, and legal fees upwards of $50,000 per abuse.
  • Following the program, documentation must occur that describes how the above conditions were met.  This documentation must be kept on file with the Department sponsoring the program for future reference.