showing movies @ your library.

I noticed when I went to one of the libraries I work with that they had received their public performance rights to show movies at the library, apparently as some blanket deal from the Department of Libraries. I read the documentation that came from Movie Licensing USA, an outfit that provides public performance licensing to schools and libraries. With a cost that they never state but call “reasonable” this group will give you a piece of paper that seems to say that the MPAA will stay off your back if you want to show movies @ your library. Well, not all movies, just ones by the major studios that they represent. You also can’t advertise the showing of your movie to the general public. If you want to put a listing in the newspaper you can only do so in the vaguest of terms — without actually using the name of the movie you are showing. They suggest ideas like “The library will be showing a tale of wizardry by the author JK Rowling.”

While the company won’t give you information about copyright law in general — ALA has this page for the curious — they seem more than happy to tell you what you are NOT allowed to do under copyright law. The printed materials that come with the license are even more bizarre and talk about “avoiding the embarassment of a lawsuit” as one reason a library might want to obtain public performance rights.

If your library is looking into obtaining public performance rights, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction has a good list of questions to ask a licensing service.

5 thoughts on “showing movies @ your library.

  1. My coworker, Kate, talked to a rep from Movie Licensing USA at PLA this year. She was told that you can promote your movie, including naming it on fliers and in the newspaper, as long as you’re not doing it in paid advertisements. Before that, we were doing that “bending over backwards to not name the movie we were showing,” and it really hurt our attendance (who’s going to go to a movie, even if it’s free, when you’re not sure what movie is going to be shown and the library talks about it like it’s classified information?). My recommendation is: talk to an official rep and make sure they spell out exactly what you can do as well as what you can’t.

  2. …With a cost that they never state but call “reasonable” …

    It’s a sliding scale depending on total local population/patron population/some other stuff. “Reasonable” starts at $275/year for the very smallest of the small rural libraries and goes up from there, and the library evidently can charge admission to recoup *only* the cost of the license itself; I was told that direct fundraising has to stop there, but that a suggested-donation pot is okay thereafter. All in all it seems like a very good deal, and the reps seem competent and enthusiastic without being overly pushy. I’ve been in touch with these folks quite a lot in the last few months, we’re just trying to get the A/V equipment in place to make it worthwhile.

  3. We have a movie license and my understanding, after talking to the rep, was that we could put the name of the movie on flyers IN THE LIBRARY and if sent directly to our library’s cardholders but could not plaster flyers around town with the titles of the movies. Unpaid entries in newspapers are fine, i.e., the community calendar section and This Week at the Library and our town’s online website. So, all in all, we get the movie titles in plenty of places, but I was puzzled as to why we couldn’t have flyers around town with the titles on them…Perhaps I misunderstood the rep, but that seemed like the gist of the licensing deal.

  4. There was just a discussion about this on the YALSA-BK listserv and the explanation given about why the flyers could not be posted all over town had to do with not competing with the local movie theaters.

Comments are closed.