About Copyright Law

  • Motion pictures and other audiovisual works that are available for rental or purchase are intended for personal, private, home use only. If you wish to show the work in any other place, you must have a separate license that specifically authorizes the public performance of that work.
  • These rules are detailed in the federal Copyright Act, as amended, Title 17 of the United States Code.
  • According to The Copyright Act, only the copyright owner holds the exclusive right, among others, “to perform the copyrighted work publicly.” (Section 106)
  • The rental or purchase of a motion picture or other audiovisual work does not bear the right to perform the copyrighted work publicly. (Section 202)
  • Films may be shown without a separate license in the home to “a normal circle of family and its social acquaintances” (Section 101) because such showings are not considered “public.”
  • Films may be shown without a license to non-profit educational institutions for “face-to-face teaching activities” because the law provides a limited exception for such showings. (Section 110(1)).
  • All other public performances of motion pictures and other audiovisual works are illegal unless they have been authorized by license. Even “performances in ‘semipublic’ places such as clubs, lodges, factories, summer camps and schools are ‘public performances’ subject to copyright control.” (Senate Report No. 94-473, page 60; House Report No. 94-1476, page 64).
  • Both for-profit organizations and non-profit institutions must secure a license to show films, regardless of whether an admission fee is charged. (Senate Report No. 94-473, page 59; House Report No.94-1476, page 62)
  • Non-compliance with the Copyright Act is considered infringement and carries steep and significant penalties for both the exhibitor and anyone that contributes to the infringing conduct. Unlicensed public performances are federal crimes and can be subject to a $150,000 penalty per exhibition and other penalties (Sections 502-506).

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Licensing rates are for public events and are charged by third party agencies. Rates are primarily based on the title shown and the expected crowd size/school enrollment numbers. There are umbrella licenses and one-time license, so be sure to explore your options.

Contact these agencies for licensing information.

Indoor events:

  • Church Video Licensing 888-771-2854 (Dream Works Pictures, Miramax Films, Touchstone Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox, Walt Disney Pictures)
  • Movie Licensing USA 1-877-321-1300 Indoor Events for K-12 (Walt Disney Pictures, Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros., Sony Pictures, NBC/Universal Pictures, DreamWorks Pictures, New Line Cinema, Lionsgate Films, MGM, Touchstone Pictures, Hollywood Pictures, Columbia Pictures, TriStar Pictures, Focus Features, Miramax Films, Warner Independent Pictures, Paramount Classics, Paramount Vantage, Fine Line Features, United Artists and Picturehouse)

Outdoor Events:

  • Swank Motion Pictures, Inc. 800-876-5577 Outdoor Events (Walt Disney Pictures, Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros., Sony Pictures, NBC/Universal Pictures, DreamWorks Pictures, New Line Cinema, Lionsgate Films, MGM, Touchstone Pictures, Hollywood Pictures, Columbia Pictures, TriStar Pictures, Focus Features, Miramax Films, Warner Independent Pictures, Paramount Classics, Paramount Vantage, Fine Line Features, United Artists)