What the law says
The Federal Copyright Act (Title 17 of the U.S. Code) governs how copyrighted materials, such as movies, may be used. Neither the rental nor the purchase of a movie carries with it the right to show the movie publicly outside the home, unless the site where the movie is used is properly licensed for public exhibition.
Ownership of the movie and the right to use it publicly are two separate issues. The copyright holder retains exclusive public performance rights.
This legal copyright compliance requirement applies to prisons, businesses, public libraries, recreation departments, schools, daycare facilities, parks, summer camps, churches, private clubs etc.
This legal requirement applies:
- Regardless of whether an admission fee is charged
- Whether the institution or organization is commercial or non-profit
- Whether a federal, state or local agency is involved
Why is Copyright Infringement a Concern?
The concept of "Public Performance" is central to copyright and the issue of protection for "intellectual property." If an author, computer programmer, musician or movie producer does not retain ownership of his or her "work," there would be little incentive for them to continue and little chance of recouping the enormous investment in time, research and development, much less profits for future endeavors.
Copyright Infringers Can be Prosecuted
The Motion Picture Association of America and its member companies are dedicated to stopping film and video piracy in all its forms, including unauthorized public performances, illegal downloading, etc. The motion picture companies can go to court to ensure their copyrights are not violated.
If you are uncertain about your responsibilities under the copyright law consult your legal representative.