Is showing movies for free illegal?

by tyankee7 on November 22, 2012

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Question by Darla: Is showing movies for free illegal?
I would like to start a free movie night in my city, in which I rent or use one of my legitimately purchased films to show to an audience of friends and neighbors in a downtown location (a church, to be precise) for no cost. I am not asking for donations either.
I was offered free advertising on a local college station the other day, and an acquaintance brought it to my attention that the movie night would be illegal and I thus should not be advertising for it.

So IS this illegal?

Best answer:

Answer by Stev
ask your local police station…

Add your own answer in the comments!

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Forever in Cali November 22, 2012 at 10:23 am

of course not… its just like having a group of people over to your house to watch a movie… just instead you are having a bigger group in a different building…
schools and churches and all kinds of places play movies to ppl and its not illegal

Katie H November 22, 2012 at 10:36 am

Yes, it’s violating copyright laws. If you read the FBI warning at the beginning of all movies, they tell you that they cannot be showed outside of your house for private viewing. If you show them to a lot of people, free or otherwise it violates various copyright laws.

D November 22, 2012 at 10:40 am

It may be illegal and could face a fine.

Clayton W November 22, 2012 at 10:43 am

Yes it is illegal. Movies that you rent or purchase legitimately, are for “in home use only.” If you wanted your friends and neighbors to come over to your house for a free movie night, then you’d be okay. But to show it in any kind of public venue (like a church, country club, auditorium, etc.) whether you’re making money on it or not is illegal without written permission from the producer of the movie.

Your best bet is to either get permission from the movie producers or show it at your home. As I understand it, a lot of movie producers will allow you to do things like you mentioned for no money at all (especially if it’s a not-for-profit), but to do so without their expressed written permission is illegal.

ConcernedCitizen November 22, 2012 at 11:32 am

There’s a clause in the FBI warning on every DVD that says “not for public exhibition” or words to that effect. I know there must be a way around it because some city governments provide free showings of movies in local parks, but they probably have to pay a licensing fee on top of the regular rental fee or purchase price. At the very least, you’d have to get premission from the distributors of the movie.

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