Copyright pose issue for student groups

jackie.stark and jackie.stark

With the recent news coverage illegal music downloading, one form of copyright violation has been overlooked: film screenings.

The Federal Copyright Act has a provision for showing movies outside of the home, considering them public performances. These public performances require a licensed copy of the movie from a film distribution company, said David Bonsall, director of NMU’s Center for Student Enrichment.

Bonsall added that “the home” can also be construed as a dorm room. However, students should be careful when watching movies in a public room.

“In your room it’s fine. But in the TV room, you need to have a licensed copy,” Bonsall said.

While most showings of movies outside of the home are considered public performances, there are some instances outlined in Title 17 of the Federal Copyright act which allow for the legal viewing of copyrighted material.

One of those instances would be the showing of a film in a classroom, as long as the instructor can relate it to the class, Bonsall said.

“It [can’t be] shown just for fun,” he added. “It has to relate to academics.”

Campus Cinema, a student-run organization, has to purchase the rights to show any film on campus, said Kamen Gullberg, chairman of the organization. Since the movies Campus Cinema plays are no longer in theatres, but have yet to come out on DVD, these prices can be high.The group had to pay roughly $950 for “Dreamgirls” Gullberg said.

However, these copyrights allow the group to not only show the film, but to also distribute other images affiliated with the movie. This allows Campus Cinema to advertise its movies using authentic movie posters, Gullberg added.

While recently 19 Northern students were under the threat of lawsuits from the Recording Industry Association of America, Bonsall said that no students have been caught violating any copyright laws in relation to films, adding that the fines for illegally showing a film are similar to the fines for illegally downloading music.

Bonsall said that while showing a movie in a residence hall may not be as visible as showing a movie in Jamrich, if a studio wanted to make a case, they easily could.

Students who need to obtain the rights to a film can call the Center for Student Enrichment to learn the names of some film distribution companies that can be used.