A License is Required to Show Movies in Your Office

Recently, a number of AAO members have received a letter from the Motion Picture Licensing Corporation (MPLC) regarding the alleged improper showing of movies in waiting rooms or other areas of the members’ orthodontic offices. The most common letter received is a strongly worded offer to enter into a licensing agreement with the MPLC in order to avoid paying a hefty penalty for future violations.

The AAO has explored the possibility of a group purchasing discount that would cover all AAO members with the MPLC, but has not yet reached an agreement.  Concomitantly, the AAO is exploring other arrangements that would allow members to offer certain videos at a much lower cost than a typical licensing agreement with the MPLC, which costs approximately $340 per year.

Below are some frequently asked questions and answers regarding the MPLC and the display of movies in orthodontic offices:

Q. Is the MPLC a legitimate organization?  Its letter seems like a scam attempt.  
A. The MPLC is a legitimate organization and is at least one of the licensing companies for a number of large media companies, including Disney. It is not a governmental body. It has been known to use tactics that could be described as aggressive with potential customers.

Q. Can I show DVDs of movies in my office?
A. Yes, but you have to have a license to do so. The MPLC and other similar vendors offer umbrella licenses for a set yearly fee. Any showing of a movie that is intended for an audience larger than family or friends, without such a license, constitutes a public performance in violation of the US Copyright Act.

Q. I received a letter from MPLC stating that I am in violation of the law for showing movies without a license, but I don’t even have a TV in my office. Where did they get their information?  
A. A number of orthodontic offices have reported that they have received the letter, but are puzzled because they do not have TVs in their offices. It is unknown how the MPLC gathers its information relative to which offices show such movies without a license.

Q. I have been showing movies. What are my options?
A. You need to either stop showing the movies or buy a license.  Continuing to show the movies without a license puts you at substantial risk for a large penalty—anywhere from $750 to $150,000. Willing infringement, or continuing to show the videos after you have been notified that you are in violation, carries the highest penalties.

Q. Does the MPLC license cover every movie?
A. No. If you buy a license from MPLC or one of its competitors, you should verify with the company which videos you are allowed to show in your office.

Q. Can I simply put my TV on cable/satellite and broadcast CNN, Nickelodeon, the Disney Channel, etc.?
A. You need to check the contract you have with your cable/satellite TV provider to make sure you have the proper service.  Service listed as “residential” typically restricts public performances—i.e., showings for an audience larger than family or friends.

Q. Can I stream movies or TV shows from Netflix or a similar provider?
A. No. Netflix and its competitors restrict usage to personal use.

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