Film Hall’s ability to show films seems to be in some kind of administrative limbo, due to its regular film viewings violating intellectual property laws.
The film distribution company responsible for treasures like Black Snake Moan found the post made on this site advertising the Sept. 12 viewing of said film, and complained to Wesleyan about this apparently illegal event. Which is too bad, because according to the Argus, the University will now require Film Hall to acquire the rights to show films:
“Swank Motion Pictures Incorporated – it’s an enormous distribution company – was apparently scouring the Internet,” [Rose Agger ’10, Film Hall’s house manager] said. “They saw on Wesleying that someone was showing their movie, and I didn’t have any kind of rights.”
The University was fined and Residential Life (ResLife) informed Residential Advisors (RAs) and house managers that they could no longer publicly show films. Tim Shiner, the University’s Director of Student Activities and Leadership Development, is responsible for helping student groups get the rights to movies. He stated that he and the rest of the administration were unaware of Film Hall’s previous activities.
“They should not have been publicly showing movies, ever,” Shiner said. “If they have been showing movies for several years, I did not know about it. They never registered their events.”
…Administrators such as Shiner did not previously know about the intellectual property violations by student groups because Wesleying is not affiliated with the University.
This is bullshit. How was the administration unaware that a student hall has been screening films for three years, when film viewing has been its express purpose from the beginning? And do they never walk around campus and notice the flyers regularly posted all over the place by student groups, advertising informal film viewings?
Also, how is a showing of a film defined as public? Does it mean that groups can’t advertise to the student body at all, or just not through public media? What if a large group of friends is watching a movie together, and friends of their friends hear about it and show up? Must the necessary licenses be acquired?
Apparently this incident doesn’t bode well for all the other student groups who regularly show films, who are ostensibly now at greater risk of having their Google-able event advertisements on Wesleying seized on by litigious film companies.
It could be difficult for Film Hall to get legal rights to show movies. Shiner said that four or five student groups have legally shown movies this year, but the bulk of those were documentaries, which are usually free to show. Rights for Hollywood films can be extremely expensive, and Film Hall has a limited budget. Shiner and Agger both said that Film Hall would apply to the Student Budgetary Committee (SBC) for more funds to continue its programs legally.
…For the moment, Film Hall’s status is unresolved. It will not be screening movies until it can afford to buy legal rights. Consequently, it may not be able to conduct enough programs to remain a program hall.
It’s just a bunch of students in a lounge in the basement of Nic 6 putting on a legally-obtained DVD, without altering or profiting from it in any way. Why is this illegal? Debate on the finer points of intellectual property law aside, this sucks. Sorry Film Hall.
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