Community associations are often on the look-out for easy and low-cost events that bring the community together for socializing and fun. And, what could be easier than a community movie night? What too many associations don’t realize, however, is that the seemingly harmless act of screening a movie in your community association clubhouse may subject the association to liability for copyright infringement.
To explain, under Title 17 of the United States Code, known as the “Federal Copyright Act,” all movies that you rent at Netflix or Redbox, or that you buy at a store, are copyrighted. Neither the rental nor the purchase of a copy of a copyrighted work carries with it the right to publicly exhibit the work. Thus, while no additional license is required to privately view a movie or other copyrighted work with a few friends and family, absent a few defined exceptions, the Federal Copyright Act requires a special public performance license for any public showing of a copyrighted movie.