Youngstown State University is taking a closer look at a law that has been around since 1976, and organizations that may once have been able to show movies on campus will now have to pay a $350 licensing fee.
The law prohibits the public showing of movies and states that showing movies on campus, without permission, is considered a copyright infringement.
This law covers all movies played outside the home, regardless of ownership.
“You just can’t start enforcing something that’s been around forever but has been over looked in the past,” junior Stephanie Furman said. “That’s going to be hard for students to follow if they never knew it was a rule before. It’s going to be impossible to enforce.”
YSU has followed the law in the past, and the licensing fees were pulled from the budget set aside for expenses.
The Office of Campus Recreation and Student Programming has looked into helping student organizations with the fees in the past.
“Our mission as a department is to do the best we can to assist and collaborate with student organizations. Each movie is subject to a licensing fee for every time it is shown. That being said, it is cost prohibitive for the university to be able to assist to pay for these fees,” said Carrie Anderson, coordinator of programs and marketing for the Office.
According to the law, the manager of the venue where the movie is shown (in this case, YSU) is held responsible if a license is not attained. This can result in copyright infringement fees and penalties.
To avoid this, public performance licensing rights and licensed movies must be purchased through Swank Motion Pictures.
Once a license is purchased, a public viewing is permissible.
There are strict rules and guidelines when showing the licensed movie. For example, the movie can only be shown in the venue it was applied for. Additionally, it must be returned immediately after the viewing.
YSU helps student organizations with these expenses by providing free room rentals in buildings like Kilcawley Center, along with DeBartolo and Cushwa halls. Students are also able to apply for Student Government Association funds to help cover the fees.
If an organization played a movie without obtaining a license, there could be legal repercussions.
“If a student group breaks the federal copyright law by showing a movie without purchasing a license, it is a violation of the student code of conduct. When we become aware of it, our judicial board will take action on both the individual students involved and the student organization,” Anderson said.
Instructors are exempt from obtaining a license if they receive permission from Swank Motion Pictures. However, in order to do so, they must prove the connection between the movie and the class material.
The movie must also be a part of the syllabus and can only be presented in the regularly used classroom.
“I don’t think we’ll be showing movies. We can’t afford it now,” said Fiona Kelly, president of the Room of Requirement. “It is the rule. It’s not YSU’s fault. So I guess we’ll just have to follow it.”