By law, as well as by intent, the pre-recorded videocassettes and DVDs which are available in stores throughout the United States are for home use only, unless you have a license to show them elsewhere. Rentals or purchases of the home videocassettes and DVDs do not carry with them licenses for non-home showings. You must have a separate license that specifically authorizes them for non-home viewing before you can legally engage in non-home showings as described in the Federal Copyright Act, Public Law 94-553, Title 17 of the United States Code.
Copyright Public Performance Rights Basic Guidelines for Campus Groups states:
It is illegal to conduct a public viewing of a video program, VHS, DVD, etc. without first obtaining the necessary license for the program. Without obtaining a license, the public viewing becomes a copyright infringement. Violators can be prosecuted and held liable for any fines, penalties, court costs, and legal fees which can amount to more than $50,000 in fines per infringement.
Section 106: The Copyright Act grants to the copyright owner the exclusive right, among other, “To perform the copyrighted work publicly.”
Section 101: Home videocassettes/DVDs may be shown without a license, in the home of “a normal circle of family and its social acquaintances” because such showings are not “public.”
Section 110.1: Home videocassettes and DVD may be shown, without a license, in certain narrowly defined “face-to-face teaching activities.”
A public performance license must be obtained when using a videotape program in any public or private location where the audience extends beyond the scope of a single family and close friends. Ownership of an individual VHS, DVD, etc. does not give one the right to show it in a public place; it is for home use only.
There are no distinctions between profit and non-profit groups.
You are not permitted to rent from a local vendor (i.e. Red Box, 48 Hours, etc.) or online sources (i.e. Netflix, etc.) to show the VHS, DVD, etc. in a public area.
Copyright laws apply whether admission is charged or not.
The following are examples of public screenings and are illegal unless the public performance rights have been obtained:
- Residence Hall lounges
- Dining areas
- Student Center spaces
- Common areas and rooms
- Academic spaces, if not determined to be exempt based on educational broadcasting