Thank you, Aaron West, Director of MediaShout User Experience, for providing us with today’s guest post. We also appreciate all you did for Worship Week 2015!
“I paid for the movie, so I can show it whenever and wherever I want.” If only video licensing was that easy! This has been something that’s been going on for years and unfortunately the copyright laws continue to modify as new technologies come out. More recently, public playing of videos has emerged with the help of the internet and digital devices. It’s no longer limited to theaters and movie rental stores (does anybody remember those days of renting a VHS tape and the VHS PLAYER too???). So, what are the rules for videos, especially in the church? Well, like before, let’s look at a couple of myths first.
Top Three Video Copyright Myths and Proper Video Licensing
Myth #1: “The church owns the DVD of a movie, so we can show it at our youth events.”
I’ll be the first to admit to thinking, “I paid for the movie, so I can show it whenever and wherever I want.” Wrong answer! What you paid for was a copy of the movie and a license to show it in a private setting (usually defined as a home) with a limited audience. Anything more and you need an additional license (see below). In fact, even if the church bought the movie, the license is still for the private showing, not a public viewing. And as bad as I hate to say it, this means you can’t show that Veggie Tales episode to the pre-school group without the public license.
To show a DVD publically, you need to not only have a physical copy of it (purchased, rented, or borrowed), but you must also pay an additional license for public viewing. The great thing is there are a few great organizations that can help you do this. The first place I recommend is CCLI’s video arm, CVLI (which can be purchased as an add-on to your CCLI).
Myth #2: “We aren’t charging an admission to watch the movie, so we don’t need a license.”
Again, this isn’t true. Whether you are charging admission or not, you need a license. In fact, if you are charging admission, you need to know that your CVLI or MPLC license won’t cover this. You need to take it one step further.
There are two major companies that provide license for a specific movie so that you can charge admission to it – Swank Motion Pictures and Criterion Pictures USA. Both companies have completely different studios under them so you need to pick the right company based on the movie you are showing and the studio distributing it. Use their search tool to find out who has the video you need.
Myth #3: “It’s on YouTube/GodTube/Vimeo/etc., so I can show it publically.”
Actually, playing any video from these websites publically is a violation of copyright laws. In fact, if you read each of their fine print, you will find that they specifically talk about private viewing only. Ripping videos from these sites is also a violation of their usage terms and can get your account suspended from them. Technically, many of the videos on YouTube themselves are in violation of copyright. Users are posting audio and video on YouTube when they aren’t the copyright holder, which is a copyright infringement. YouTube is working hard to bring violators down as quickly as they can, but it’s hard when there are 24 hours of video uploaded every second to YouTube. These users can be fined. And if you rip one of these videos and show it publically, you can be fined as well. Don’t let yourself get into one of these positions.
[Note: Some online videos are marked by the originator as available for Public / Commercial use under the Creative Commons license. You can use these but if a user by the name of IHATECOPYRIGHTREGULATIONS has uploaded a clip of a movie and declared it Creative Commons then you need to know they are doing so illegally. Use your head. One other note, there is a usage allotment of copyrighted material which allows for “fair use” without worry of copyright infringement. You can see the legal description of “fair use” on youtube’s site here.]
Use of Video in Broadcasting / Re-broadcasting
If you are planning on broadcasting any of these videos via the web or television (whether live or delayed) or via DVD or digital video, you must acquire a separate license for this type of usage. This is important for satellite locations or simul-casting an event. Just make sure you are doing your research and asking questions. Ignorance is not a defense when it comes to copyright law.
Repeated Use of Content
If there is a movie or movie clip that you want to use on a regular basis (i.e. a background clip that fits the theme of your church that you would use weekly for the next 3-5 years), then you can contact the studios directly and work on a contract for that particular clip with them. Lots of them will negotiate with you to get what you need, but it will be a onetime fee which may give you more rights than just an umbrella license with a yearly (or every time you use it) fee.
So, what do you do now? Just like with music, access your needs. There are a variety of packages listed above. Call each of the providers and talk through your potential needs and find what works best for your congregation. Think through every possible scenario and ask lots of questions. You want to make sure you are in compliance with the law (from an integrity standpoint), but you also want to make sure that you are rewarding the actors, directors, producers, crew, etc. that created the film for your usage. Remember, you are to be a light in this world and stealing movies, whether you agree with the principle or not, is not what the church needs to be known for.
This has been a guest post by Aaron West, Director of User Experience at MediaShout and former A/V Coordinator for Dave Ramsey. He’s also Chief Consultant for The 1AV Guy, Co. Under the umbrella of Chief Consultant, Aaron works with churches in the areas of technical design, installation management, and support / training with the desire to support those churches so they can be good stewards with their money, time, gear, and volunteers. You can contact Aaron via twitter or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.