Umbrella movie license gives councils expanded options for showing movies

FBIas-Anti-Piracy-Warning-SealThat FBI Anti-Piracy Warning Seal before movies can be scarier than some horror films.

Wait, if I show this movie anywhere outside my home, I might spend “five years in federal prison” or pay “a fine of $250,000”? Eek!

We show movies at Scouting events from time to time, most notably in BSA training courses like Wood Badge and National Youth Leadership Training, or NYLT. Those two courses use movies — the titles of which I won’t name to preserve the surprise — to drive home important messages.

Some camporees, day camps and summer camps show movies, too.

Because of this, we need to be obedient and follow the rules about showing movies in public — and yes, those rules apply to the Boy Scouts of America even though we’re a nonprofit organization.

Previously, the BSA secured the necessary movie license for Wood Badge training courses. But those licenses only covered a specific date and location. In other words, this allowed only one-time use.

But starting now, the BSA has purchased an umbrella license through the Motion Picture Licensing Corporation that covers all council-owned properties. This move has implications that reach beyond the world of Wood Badge and NYLT.

So what does this mean for you and your Scouts? Read on to find out.

Why this was done

The BSA wanted to limit the liability exposure for the local council and National Service Center as it pertains to showing movies and movie clips in connection with Wood Badge and NYLT.

It also wanted to save local councils some money.

How licenses used to work

Previously, Wood Badge had a process in place to request the necessary license to present movies required for the course. The process required a Wood Badge Course Director to submit a Media Usage Form 30 days before his or her course. The National Service Center then obtained the license and invoiced the local council.

The previous fee was $400 for each Wood Badge course to present the two movies required in the syllabus. Under the previous system, each NYLT course would need to pay $200 for a site- and date-specific license.

How licenses will work going forward

Starting with all Wood Badge and NYLT courses in 2016, the “Request for Authorization to Conduct a National Training Course” form will authorize the National Service Center to invoice the local council for their media usage, eliminating the need for the Media Usage form.

The new fee: $200 per Wood Badge course and $100 per NYLT course. That’s a savings of 50 percent for your local council.

But wait, there’s more!

The added benefit of this new umbrella license is that it covers all local council facilities and camps for the duration of the license: Nov. 1, 2015, to Oct. 31, 2016.

So those movie nights at your council summer camp are covered, as is any other time a movie is shown at a council-owned site.

Which movies are eligible?

Anything from one of these studios. That’s a long list that includes Fox, Disney, Paramount, Warner Bros., New Line, NBC Universal, MGM, Marvel Studios and many more.

I’m told that roughly 95 percent of movies are covered by this list.

Other questions about movie licensing

Here are some more questions and answers from Scouting U:

What is a “public performance”?

How many times have you seen the FBI warning at the beginning of a DVD or VHS movie? Next time you pop a DVD into the player, read it closely. It states that the movie is for “Home Use Only.” Home Use means just that, viewing of a movie at home by family or a close circle of friends.

What does the law say? 

Under the Copyright Revision Act of 1976 all non-private exhibitors of registered copyrighted videos or DVD’s must obtain a Public Performance License.

What’s the potential punishment for breaking the rules?

 “Willful” infringement for commercial or financial gain is a federal crime carrying a maximum sentence of up to five years in jail and/or a $250,000 fine.

If I don’t charge admission, do I still need a license?

Yes. Copyright laws apply whether or not admission is charged.

I own the movie. Do I still need a license to show it outside of my home?

Yes. Neither the rental, purchase, or lending of a video or DVD carries with it the right to exhibit movies outside the home.

What if we are a nonprofit organization, church or government agency? Do we still need a license?

Yes. Copyright laws apply to all viewings of movies that take place outside of the privacy of a home, regardless of the organization holding the event.

Hat tip: Thanks to Scouting U’s Mark Nelson for the tip! 


    • Kate, I don’t think it does — BUT — then again, it never did before either. There are some movies that have a contact form that a non-profit organization can reach out to and receive a complimentary release directly though. (Down and Derby is one such movie, for example, that Scouts can show publically BUT still should have that release.)

      Clearly, enforcement is up to those owning the copyright. One of BSA’s roles is to protect Scouts and Scouting as much as is possible and do so according to the law. This is a great step forward within what the BSA could control (owned properties).

  1. It depends on where your unit meets. My church has license to show movies thru our local church council (UMC) They purchase a license that covers all the churches in their council for movies and music. I sat on the finance committee and Admin. Board and remember the bill coming in each year.

  2. Please confirm my understanding that this applies only to Scouting organizations at council properties. For example, a charter partner organization meeting at a BSA council property for a retreat event would need their own license.

  3. What is the procedure for watching a movie not in the Wood Badge or NYLT syllabi? This article did not have any direction for these movies. The way I read it – there is no charge. Correct?

  4. Using a clip may fall under ‘fair use’. You should check on the guidelines for this as they can vary due to the particular clip, the venue, and its length.

    • There are merit badges that have movies as part of the requirements (Citizenship in Community and American Heritage comes to mind). Most MB Classes are not on council / BSA property. How do we deal with this?

  5. Looks like “No Charge” is only at Council-Owned properties. That was a win though because BMG and other similar organizations that represent movie, music, etc. want an asronomical fee from every single tiny hotel (as an example) that has a TV in a lobby or even on a piece of exercise equipment. The agreement the BSA worked out to cover thousands of Council Properties across the country with one agreement is a pretty big accomplishment.

  6. Ok, so this post seems to cover how Woodbadge and NYLT courses are covered. Why about other Scouting events?

    Let’s say there’s a massive thunderstorm at summer camp everyone is hunkered down in the dining hall… the camp director wants to throw a Pixar movie on to pass the time while everyone is hanging out. What’s needed to be “legal” here? What paperwork needs to be submitted? When? To whom? What fees are associated? How does this work?!?

  7. My troop has a cabin weekend every winter at a council-owned property (we rent a cabin at our local Scout camp). The boys want to bring an LCD projector and watch “Star Wars” on Saturday night. Is this legal? Do we have to file any paperwork or pay any fees? Or are we 100% covered because it’s from a studio on the list and we’re on a council-owned property?

    • So Wood Badge and NYLT courses need to fill out a “Request for Authorization” form and will pay a fee ($200 per Wood Badge course and $100 per NYLT course). Do summer camps need to file any paperwork or pay any fees to be covered?

  8. Bryan, I had to dig into this a few months ago, here’s what I found. Non-profit educational institutions are able to show movies for purposes of instruction. Does the BSA qualify as such an institution?

    Section 110(1) of Title 17 of the United States Code grants a specific exemption from the copyright laws for:
    performance or display of a work by instructors or pupils in the course of face-to-face teaching activities of a nonprofit educational institution, in a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction, unless, in the case of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, the performance, or the display of individual images, is given by means of a copy that was not lawfully made under this title, and that the person responsible for the performance knew or had reason to believe was not lawfully made ….

  9. A question that I have is for councils that do not own property. Would events at the Council Office (a leased property) be covered by this license?

  10. A lot of these questions hinge on the difference between public vs. private consumption. When we get down to the patrol level the discussion is one of private consumption. Up to a Camporee level, that’s public consumption. Troops and classrooms are somewhere in between.

  11. Years ago at a camporee I showed Follow me Boys. And yes I contacted Disney and paid a licensing fee and permission even though I owned a licensed copy.

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