Unauthorized Public Performance

What Is A Public Performance?

Copies of a film sold or rented to the public are for home use only and intended solely for the enjoyment of a person, his/her family and guests in a home
setting. Virtually all other exhibitions of a film constitute a public performance under the Copyright Act.

That means that films on videotape or DVD, cable or satellite are protected under the Copyright Act. Section 42(2) creates a criminal offence where the
public performance is for private profit. Because of the large investment required to produce a motion picture, copyright in films is vigorously enforced against those who do not obtain the required licences. This illegal activity affects non-theatrical distributors and video retailers as well as the copyright owners.

Penalties For Copyright Infringement

Section 42 of the Copyright Act provides that a person found guilty of copyright infringement is subject on summary conviction to a maximum fine of
$25,000.00 or six months inprisonment or to both, or on indictment to a maximum fine of $1 million or to imprisonment for up to 5 years or to both. This
activity also constitutes a civil infringement.

What The Law Says

Suppose you invite a few personal friends over for dinner and a movie. You rent a video from a local store and show the film in your home that evening. Have
you violated the copyright law by "publicly performing" the movie? No.

However, suppose you take that same movie on video and show it at a club or bar that you happen to manage or own. In this case you have infringed the
copyright in the movie. The increasing availability of copyrighted video titles has meant that both legal and illegal public performances have become much

Public performance licences must be obtained for screenings in taverns, pubs, restaurants, clubs, prisons, lodges, factories, buses, cruise ships, public
pleasure boats, parks, libraries, summer camps, day-care facilities, schools or university classrooms, college or university residence halls or common
rooms accessible to the dormitory population. They are also required for screenings in apartment or condominium or other recreation areas that are available
to residents or others. This legal requirement applies regardless of whether or not an admission fee is charged.

To help understand the legalities, check the following questions and answers:

Q. I operate a summer camp for children and screen videocassettes for "movie nights" as a camp activity. The films are available from a video rental store
in my community. Am I breaking the law?

A. Yes. The owner of the copyright in a film has the exclusive right to perform or show the film publicly. Unlicenced screenings of a movie constitute illegal
public performances.

Q. I don't use films on video as I pick-up movies with my satellite dish in my tavern. Is this legal?
A. No. Showing these movies in a tavern, restaurant or other establishment open to the public constitutes a public performance for which a licence is required.
The technical ability to receive the movie by a satellite dish or cable box does not give you the legal right to show it to the public in your commercial

Q. I operate a motel and show movies to my guests either with a satellite dish or VCR to play back pre-recorded movies, but I do not charge any fee for this service. Do I still need a licence from the copyright owner?
A. Yes. An unauthorized public performance for private profit is illegal. The legal definition of private profit includes venues in which a fee is charged for admission to an exhibition of a film or where the exhibition is intended as a form of entertainment which directly or indirectly promotes the business.

Q. I have bought a number of film classics and my child's school teacher wants to show the movies to the class. Is this permitted?
A. Yes, provided the teacher arranges for a licence before the screenings. Otherwise they result in illegal public performances. Ownership of a video does not entitle a person to exhibit it, reproduce it or otherwise deal with the film.

Q. I operate a video retail store and occasionally I rent videos of films to school teachers who show them to students in classrooms. Am I doing something illegal?
A. No. It is the person who rents the videos and shows them to students without first obtaining a public performance licence who is in contravention of the Copyright Act. However, if a retailer has prior knowledge of the intended infringing activity, he or she could be liable as a party to the infringing activities of the teacher.

Q. I operate a tour bus which is equipped with a VCR and television monitors. Usually videos of motion picture films for which public performance licences have been obtained are shown to the passengers during long distance trips. However, passengers sometimes bring their own videos and insist on showing them during trips. Is this legal?
A. No. Because ownership of the videotape does not mean ownership of the copyright of the production it contains, the passenger cannot legally show it in public without first obtaining a public performance licence. You and the bus company you represent become liable if you permit the passenger to use the bus playback equipment for unlicenced screenings.

Q. Are there any restrictions on these licences?
A. Yes. They include guidelines affecting advertising and promotion of your screenings. Check with an authorized distributor for the details.

How To Obtain A Public Performance Licence

Obtaining a public performance licence is relatively easy and usually requires no more than a phone call. If you have any doubt about your screening, ask an authorized distributor about licencing .

The non-theatrical distributors who handle these licences are:
Criterion Pictures Audio Cine Films Inc. (ACF)
(800) 565-1996 (Ontario) (514) 493-8887
(800) 663-0991 (Western Provinces) (800) 289-8887 (Canada-wide)
(800) 361-2788 (Quebec & Atlantic Provinces) www.acf-film.com

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© Canadian Motion Picture Distributors Association (CMPDA), 2006. All rights reserved.