Editor’s note: Following are two submissions to the site. One discusses the ramifications of using a rented cassette for "Public performance," and the other has information about a service called Swank Motion Pictures, where you can obtain specially licensed video tapes. The most important thing is to check with your supervisor before planning a movie-related program so that you know the policies on your campus. Read on… "I saw the "Movie Night" suggestion on the program sharing part of your site. While I will agree that movies are good programs, the way that Lora suggested going about it is against the law, because videocassettes that you can buy or rent are licensed for "home use only." Showing a video in the lobby without renting a public performance videocassette is against the law and can result in fines of thousands of dollars.

The mere purchase or rental of a pre-recorded home videocassette does not carry with it the right to exhibit. You are required to have a public performance license. You will notice that in the first few frames of any home videocassette that you rent, there is an FBI warning that explains the tape is "for home use only" and that any unauthorized public exhibition is against the law. Therefore, paying a rental fee for a home videocassette only gives you the right to show it in your home, but, if showings are planned for outside your home, you must obtain the additional right to a "public exhibition" by obtaining a "public performance" license. The Motion Picture Licensing Corporation has a good site which explains copyright law at http://www.mplc.com . They sell umbrella licenses to groups which want to legally show rented and owned videocassettes. Unfortunately, colleges and universities do not qualify for these licenses under current law, so we must rent videos through a special agency, such as Swank Films. Though some schools have tried to make the argument that the lobby of a residence hall is part of a student’s home, this has not held up in court, and some schools have been threatened with, and others have received, steep fines. I would suggest that the RA show any video in his or her own room only. This clearly falls under "home use" and is, therefore, legal. I would also tell any RA to check his or her schools policies about use of copyrighted materials. he or she may be committing a violation of school policy by showing videos in lobbies as well.

Sorry for the bad news. I hate this law, too. But I do think people should be informed, so they don’t get slammed with a fine or get their school in trouble. Sean Cook, Administrative Coordinator
Penn State U.
seancook@psu.edu" This is regarding the "Movie Night" social program and the legal ramifications involved — I’d like to recommend a company that rents out these specially licensed videotapes — Swank Motion Pictures. They have a website at www.swank.com and they have always been a great asset to my programming as both an RA and the program director of the on-campus movie channel. I’m not trying to plug this company for any financial gains or anything, they’re just the only place I’ve ever dealt with that is always willing to help you come up with a theme (i.e., movies that deal with black history month, gay rights, sexual issues, women’s issues, etc.) for your program, help you promote it (they made some specialized artwork promoting some movies for me), and what’s best about it is the fact that the movie you get is free of advertisements, previews, and content editing. The movie selections range from classics like Citizen Kane to new stuff like American Pie. They’re the folks to go to for this kind of stuff — they even have a division called residence life cinema that does nothing but work with this kind of stuff. Basically, when I want to do a movie night and not have to worry about possibly paying huge fines, I use Swank.
Thanks, Bob Ell
Truman State University
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