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    • CommentTimeFeb 10th 2011
    The college film club I belong to recently was ordered to stop screening movies due to possible copyright issues. Our format has been to screen a movie in the basement of the college library and have a discussion afterward. We had been operating under the assumption that our activities fell under Fair Use. We have been informed that this is possibly not true and thus the cessation of movie screenings.

    We are looking to see what our options to resume movie screenings. Public domain movies have been voiced as an option. Someone suggested streaming licensed movies from Hulu or Youtube. I've look into this and I'm not sure of the legality of showing a film that Hulu or Youtube has licensed to a group of people. Netflix was mentioned but I'm fairly certain that their licenses do not include public performance. We are aware of Swank Motion Pictures and are looking into them.

    I'm doing research on this topic myself but I thought it couldn't hurt to ask if anyone here had any viewpoints or info on the options I touched on or on other options the film club could explore.

    Thank you for your time.
    • CommentAuthorRenThing
    • CommentTimeFeb 10th 2011
    Do you use funds from the school to purchase the films? I thought it would only qualify as violating copyright or whatever legal protections there are if you were taking in money or someone was profiting, in some way, off the screening.
    • CommentAuthorArgos
    • CommentTimeFeb 10th 2011
    My understanding is that you can't advertise "We will be screnning So and So movie!" My commuter club on campus screens films sometimes, so what we do is we make a poll with say, 4 movies, and the winner gets screened. Sometimes they're real polls, sometimes there's just one movie we really want to see and we make the poll as a loophole to get around the advertising of a specific film. Can you ask if that would work for you?
    • CommentAuthorDC
    • CommentTimeFeb 10th 2011
    I have no idea how the laws are but if you can somehow make the screening a private one, like it was a private party, I guess you shouldn’t have trouble.
    You can always try to buy movies from movie rental shops that are going out of business. Most o f the movies are authorized for public screening.
  1.  (9529.5)
    Hmm. We haven't had any kind of trouble like that at my school in Massachusetts. What state are you in?
  2.  (9529.6)
    @silentobjector: U.S. copyright law is federal and applies the same in every state.

    @gillian: How many people are in the club? Enough to make moving the screenings to someone's house? The reason your school might be getting twitchy is because at a technical level, you are putting on a "public performance" of the film which is one of the rights that IP owners get. Films shown in the home or other private settings don't fall into this category. (@DC is right.) Granted, I can't imagine the MPAA actually suing a school for something like this, but I guess they are trying to be extra careful. Fair use very well might apply, but remember it is DEFENSE to copyright infringement. That means that even if you successfully argue fair use, you still have to go to court and pay legal fees. It might help you win the case, but it won;t prevent you from being sued.
  3.  (9529.7)
    If you are holding a screening in a public place, or have publicly advertised the screening in any way, then you are exhibiting the film, and need to pay for exhibition rights. If you move the screenings to a private space (not just a private conference room, but a dorm room or other space considered not for public use) and discuss the screenings only among pre-selected members, you should be fine, because that's basically just watching a movie with your friends.

    If you exhibit a film in any way to the public without getting a clearance from the copyright owner, you are technically in violation of copyright. Usually you won't get busted for it unless you're taking in money and get noticed by a rights holder, but that's a matter of enforcement.

    You can always try to buy movies from movie rental shops that are going out of business. Most of the movies are authorized for public screening.

    What? Video stores have limited rights to rent copies of films for private viewing. They don't go anywhere near public exhibition rights, unless I'm extremely mistaken.
    • CommentAuthormunin218
    • CommentTimeFeb 10th 2011
    There's a lot of movies in public domain. An acquaintance had to do a lot of research on that, he had a cable access sci-fi monster movie type show. You'd be surprised at some of the old gems you can find.
  4.  (9529.9)
    edit: Shit, posted in the wrong thread (the result of having too many tabs open, heh)
    • CommentAuthor256
    • CommentTimeFeb 11th 2011
    There's a lot of movies in public domain.

    Word to this. has quite a collection - the quality of their copies probably isn't high enough for you to screen/project them, but it could be a good resource to find PD movies and preview them before looking for HQ/disc versions.

    Somewhere to start: Feature Films page.
    • CommentTimeFeb 11th 2011
    As long as you don't advertise the name of the film at all or ask for money to enter you can show whatever you want. You can flyer the whole campus with something that says, 'MOVIE CLUB! WATCH AND DISCUSS! ROOM 108 FRIDAY AT 10!' and as long as you never give the title of a movie you're still good to go. I'd recommend voting on what to watch the following week at the end of each meeting and relying on word of mouth for growth of the group. If you get large enough you can start taking a collection to purchase rights to advertise/exhibit and move to a more public forum.