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Movie screening in retirement villages: it’s the law

Last week I read a great alert from our Industry Partners Russell Kennedy that provided a timely reminder about screening of movies within Retirement Communities, particularly during these COVID times when residents are often more likely to stay within the village.

In my experience there is often some confusion about whether operators are required to have a license when screening movies in community centres. 

 Most of us will have seen the notices at the start of DVDs or streaming services warning that the film is provided for in-home use only. At the time of purchase you are often also purchasing the right to view the movie in your own home.

However, what if you wish to screen the film in the community centre. That is when things get a little complicated.

Our colleagues Rohan Harris (pictured) and Gina Tresidder at Russell Kennedy share the following.

There are no blanket exceptions or specific ‘fair dealing’ provisions that apply to the screening of films in aged care homes or retirement villages1 or for not-for-profits. So the question becomes whether it is a ‘private’ or ‘public’ screening.

What’s the difference between a ‘Private’ and ‘Public’ screening?

There are no specific guidelines set out in the legislation.

Generally, if a resident is watching a film in the same way a person might do in a private home then it is likely to be considered a private screening. For example: If a resident of a retirement village hires a DVD or signs up to a streaming service and watches a film alone in their room or invites a few friends over to watch.

This would generally be regarded as a private screening that would not require permission.

 However, if the provider or the operator organises to screen a film for multiple residents in a common area such as a recreation room, for example, this is more likely to be considered a public screening requiring permission from the copyright owners. For example: If a retirement village committee plays a DVD in the community centre and residents from the village gather there to watch it, even if there are no guests from outside the village;

This is more likely to be considered a public screening requiring a licence.

Where can I get a licence?

Rather than approaching the individual owners of copyright in the particular films you wish to screen, to streamline matters, the various studios have granted rights to different organisations to manage licensing on their behalf.

 In particular, we understand that Roadshow Public Performance Licensing (RPPL) (www.roadshowppl.com.au) manages licenses for studios such as Roadshow, Warner Bros, Universal, Paramount, and 20th Century Fox. RPPL has recently authorised a specialist distributor, Heritage Films International Pty Ltd, to issue the Big Studio Movie Licence (www.bsml.com.au) to retirement communities and aged care facilities.

What if I do not get a licence?

If you do not get a licence, then you may be infringing the copyright in the films you screen. The copyright owner or authorised licensee could take legal action against you any time up to six years after the infringement occurred. The copyright owner could seek orders from the courts including that the infringer pay damages or a portion of profits. In some circumstances, directors can also be found personally liable.

If you need some further clarification or guidance on this matter please reach out to Rohan or Gina at Russell Kennedy’s IP team.

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