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About Copyright Law

TV shows and films, whether broadcast on TV, played from DVDs or viewed from the internet, are intended for personal, private use only. If you wish to show the work in public, you must have a separate licence that specifically authorises the public exhibition of that work.

The rules related to public exhibition are detailed in the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (“CDPA 1988”).

  • According to the CDPA 1988, only the copyright owner holds the exclusive right, among others, “to perform, show or play the work in public” § 16(1)(c)
  • The rental or purchase of a work does not carry with it the right to make “available for the purpose of exhibition in public” § 18A(3)
  • Works may be shown without a licence in the home to a normal circle of family and its social acquaintances because such showings are not “public.” Any performance outside a “domestic and private context” is considered a public performance. (Ernest Turner Electrical Instruments Ltd v PRS Ltd [1943] CH 167)
  • Works may be shown without a licence “at an educational establishment for the purpose of instruction.” § 34 (2).
  • Other exhibitions of works are illegal unless they have been authorised by licence. Even “performances in ‘semipublic’ places such as clubs and factories are public performances subject to copyright control.”
  • Institutions, organisations, companies or individuals wishing to engage in non-home showings of works must secure licences to do so—regardless of whether an admission or other fee is charged.

Non-compliance with the CDPA 1988 is considered infringement and carries steep and significant penalties for both the exhibitor and anyone that contributes to the infringing conduct. (CDPA 1988, § 97 and § 107.)