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Knowledge

Enforcement and legal issues

I already have a cable or satellite business package. Do I also need a Blanket License Public Performance License?

You do if you want a low-cost way to limit the risk of copyright infringement lawsuits from rightsholders of unlicensed programming included in these packages. That’s because your cable or satellite business package almost certainly does not protect you against such claims. As far as we are aware, none of these business package agreements include any warranty that the package includes all necessary public performance rights, meaning you may have no recourse against the provider if it turns out that they don’t in fact have all necessary public performance rights. And almost all of them offer no indemnity against copyright infringement lawsuits from rightsholders of unlicensed programming. This means that subscribers like you could be left on the hook for potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars of copyright infringement liability.

That is not to say that you do not need these commercial business packages. You very much do, for several reasons. First and foremost – they provide your organization with great content! MPLC does not provide content – we provide rights to air that content legally in public. Second, they provide your organization with the necessary rights to publicly display the channels in their packages—something else that MPLC does not provide. And third, they provide your organization with valuable public performance rights for certain portions of the underlying content, e.g., live sports, channel-owned content, and even some individual movies and TV shows.

But they do not include anything like all of the public performance rights you need to minimize your risk of liability—there is a remaining gap, and it is significant. Our license goes far to fill this gap by covering wide swathes of programming that their business package does not.

What happens if we choose not to comply with the Copyright Act?

Failure to comply with the Copyright Act can result in serious financial consequences, up to $150,000 for each work infringed, plus court costs and attorney fees. These can really add up. For example, a defendant in one case was required to pay $36,000 in damages and over $160,000 in attorney’s fees and costs for playing unlicensed music.

Will you take legal action against me if I do not buy a license?

We do not like to refer unlicensed organizations to our rightsholders for legal action as it is expensive and wasteful for everyone and can result in exceptional costs for a small business. An MPLC license is affordable, easy to buy, and can be in place immediately so we would much rather talk to you and come to an agreement where you buy a license and become compliant.

Rightsholders bring legal action as a last resort.

In cases where an organization is showing copyrighted content in a public space knowingly in breach of the law, then copyright holders can and do take legal action, and there are many examples of this. There is no need to expose yourself or your business to the risk of a legal enforcement action because an MPLC Public Performance License is affordable and easily obtainable.

I’ve been running my business for many years without a license. Why do I suddenly need one now?

We often get asked this question and we understand it can come as a surprise when you suddenly have to pay for something that you haven’t heard of before.

MPLC has been helping organizations for the past 35+ years stay compliant with copyright law.  While we provide a license to hundreds of thousands of companies and organizations across the world, there are still many more that need a license.  If you have been operating without a license for a while, then it is not too late to secure one today and take the right steps towards legal copyright compliance.

MPLC Public Performance Licenses are affordable, easy to buy, and can be put in place immediately. They are the legal way to show movies and TV programs in a public or commercial space.

What happens if I show movies or TV programs publicly and don’t get an MPLC Public Performance license?

It is a legal requirement to have a public performance license from the copyright owner, and if you show movies or TV publicly without one, then you may be ignoring the Copyright Act. This can result in penalties up to $150,000 for each program or movie that is shown. You could also be liable for court costs and attorney fees. 

For example, in June 2009, a Minneapolis jury found single mother Jammie Thomas-Rasset liable for $1.92 million for infringing the copyright on twenty-four songs (ultimately reduced to $220,000 on appeal for technical, unrelated reasons). One month later, a Boston jury ordered college student Joel Tenenbaum to pay $675,000 for infringement of the copyright on thirty songs (upheld on appeal).

It’s not worth risking these charges when a license cost is very affordable.

MPLC Public Performance Licenses are easy to buy and can be put in place immediately. They are the legal way to show movies and TV in a public or commercial space.

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