Can I Sell You a License to Go With That Popcorn?

Can I Sell You a License to Go With That Popcorn?

With the recent announcement of the 2024 Oscars nominees, showings and re-showings of the movies that received a nod from the Academy will be prevalent in the coming months. But it is important to remember that public movie showings are strictly controlled by the U.S. Copyright Act, which grants the exclusive right to authorize public showings of copyrighted works to their owners. “Public” showings are those involving people other than family members or a small group of friends of the person who legally obtained a copy of the movie. This includes schools, community groups, work-related waiting and break rooms, and all measure of open and accessible areas.

The Motion Picture Licensing Corporation (MPLC) is the leading provider of audiovisual blanket licenses in the U.S. and was established in 1986 by motion picture executives with the intent of making motion picture public performances legally accessible. They have a number of articles published on the subject of copyright infringement of motion pictures and currently provide umbrella licenses to over 250,000 facilities in the U.S. and over 500,000 worldwide.

There are several exceptions to the prohibition against public showings which focus on the size of the space in which the movie is being shown and the amount and size of audio and visual equipment being used. But businesses (nonprofit and otherwise) and individuals are advised to use caution when rolling out the red carpet for customers and supporters to view movies, nominated or not. If showing a movie on one or more TVs 55” or larger or using more than 4 speakers, you will likely need a public display license from MPLC.

For more information about the legalities around copyright, movies, and public showings, please reach out to Kathryn Spray.