Learn How to Ensure Compliance at Your Establishment
This content was prepared for BA members by MPLC, an Affinity Partner of the BA. Learn more about this program and the benefits available for BA members here.
Disclaimer: There are cases in which MPLC licensing is required, such as showing your personal collection of movies or DVDs at your brewery. In instances where you have a ‘commercial’ or ‘company’ level cable/satellite package, public performance rights for the content in that package may be covered by the company providing said package. Please consult your cable provider, review the contract details, and consider legal guidance to ensure compliance based on your use of broadcast materials.
If your brewery is like most, you probably have a few televisions in your taproom, brewpub, or restaurant. It’s easy to see why. TV is a common amenity that can help drive traffic to your brewery. Patrons love to enjoy a quality craft beer with their favorite program. TVs come in handy for special events like watch parties or theme nights. Screens create ambiance, maybe your brewery has cable or satellite television on mute for most of the day. No matter your brewery’s preference, in nearly every case playing television in your establishment requires a license. Breweries risk copyright infringement when they play television and other content without a license.
Is This a New Law?
This is not a new law. The Copyright Act was adopted in 1976 to address the needs of both the creative community and consumers. U.S. copyright law establishes that movies, TV shows, and other audiovisual content are intended for personal, private use only. For example, watching TV at home is a private exhibition. However, watching TV in a public space, like your brewery, is different. Copyright owners, like Hollywood studios and television producers, hold the exclusive right to, among other things, “perform a copyrighted work publicly” (17 U.S.C § 106). This is a fancy way of saying that only the copyright owner has the right to play their movies or TV shows in your brewery. When you show copyrighted content in your brewery you need permission from the copyright owner.
Nearly all copyright owners give permission through licensing, specifically through public performance licensing. When you show TV in your brewery you are engaging in a public performance and require a public performance license. This is similar to music. Your brewery probably holds licenses with ASCAP, SESAC, and BMI that allow it to play music onsite. Audiovisual content like movies and TV have similar licensing requirements.
What Types of Content Require a License?
A public performance license is required when movies, TV, and other audiovisual content enjoyed via sources like broadcast, cable or satellite television, DVD, Blu-ray, download, or streaming platforms are shown in your brewery. Whether or not the volume is on, a license is required.
You may be wondering if you need a license if your brewery has a cable or satellite business package. While these packages may include some public performance rights for sports programming, they never include public performance rights for all the content in the package. No matter the type of business package you have, additional public performance rights are needed. The right type of license can provide legal peace of mind for a nominal fee.
How Does Licensing Work?
Public performance licenses are granted either for a specific title or for a designated location. A “title-by-title” license grants rights for a specific title, like a popular movie. Title-by-title licenses are usually utilized for screening events that will be publicly advertised or where an admission fee will be charged.
Location specific licenses, which may be called “blanket licenses” or “site licenses” provide coverage for a specific location and a variety of titles. Location specific licenses do not allow licensees to publicly advertise titles or charge an admission fee.
Both title-by-title licenses and location specific licenses cost around a few hundred dollars. However, for brewers, a location specific license will represent the best value. For example, if your brewery plays television for most of the day, you don’t know what you will show ahead of time, which makes title-by-title licensing unfeasible. Blanket licenses provide coverage for a variety of motion picture studios and TV producers. Once licensed, any movie or TV show represented by a covered studio or producer can be shown.
While there is no public performance license that covers every title on TV, one location specific license in particular provides the most coverage currently available for most types of facilities, including breweries.
The Umbrella License®
The MPLC Umbrella License is an annual, public performance license for movies, TV, and other audiovisual content. It allows breweries to show content intended for personal, private use only in public with the assurance of copyright compliance, and without having to report usage. The Umbrella License provides coverage for more than 1,000 rights holders, ranging from major Hollywood studios to a variety of television producers. Content can be viewed publicly via any legal means. Obtain content in a variety of formats originally intended for personal use, such as DVDs, Blu-ray, streaming, download, broadcast, cable or satellite TV.
The key guidelines of the license are 1) advertising to the general public is not permitted (however, promoting events within your brewery is allowed); 2) charging admission fees for watching the content is not allowed; and, of course, 3) the content that you are watching must be legally obtained (i.e., not pirated).
Many brewers ask about guidelines for promoting exhibitions since this is one of the main differences between the Umbrella License and a title-by-title license. Brewers can promote exhibitions inside the brewery, for example, on flyers inside the building or through direct correspondence such as an email or letter. When promoting exhibitions in this manner, brewers can include the title, character names or rights holder name (e.g., CNN). When promoting exhibitions to the general public, limitations apply. For example, if you promote exhibitions on a website, on a social media account, or via any publicly accessible means (e.g. newspapers, billboards), you cannot use the title, character names, or rights holder name. However, it is okay to provide this information in response to a call, text, or email.
Please see the Umbrella License Terms and Conditions for complete license guidelines.
Founded in 1986, MPLC is an audiovisual collection organization and is similar to ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC, with the distinction of collecting royalties for movies, TV, and other audiovisual content.
MPLC works closely with a variety of associations and industry organizations to businesses about motion picture copyright compliance and promotes the intellectual property rights of content we love to watch.
All told, MPLC licenses hundreds of thousands of locations worldwide, including, but not limited to, nonprofit organizations, corporations, and government.
Other License Options
In the United States, two vendors provide title-by-title licenses for major Hollywood studios. Title-by-title licensing may be of interest to breweries that want to publicly advertise titles, charge admission to view titles, or only plan to show one title per year. A single title license is comparable in cost to an annual Umbrella License for unlimited exhibitions. Interested breweries may wish to contact Criterion Pictures USA or Swank Motion Pictures.
What If We Don’t Have a License?
Failure to comply with the Copyright Act can result in serious financial consequences, ranging from $750 to $150,000 for each illegal exhibition, 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.
These penalties are much more costly than compliance. Licenses for a specific title or for year-round coverage are only a few hundred dollars.