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Nursing Homes Could Face Copyright Infringement for Movie Nights

By Lisa M. Schaffer, Esq. on October 11, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The motion picture industry seems interested in supporting every cause on the planet, except senior citizens. In 2016, the Motion Picture Licensing Corporation (MPLC) opted to remove an exemption they had traditionally granted, and began enforcing their public performance copyright laws. This requires nursing homes to obtain a public performance license prior to showing films in common areas, or face a hefty $150,000 fine.

When It Comes to Seniors, Good Feeling's Gone

When someone rents a movie, whether through RedBox or Netflix, they are granted a personal, private use to view the film, not use for a public viewing. For years, the MPLC turned a blind eye to certain institutions, such as senior citizen facilities, in a show of gracious hospitality. As Dory says "Good feeling's gone!" and that favor has been rescinded.

Public performance licenses are issued per movie and cost about $6 per unit, with a minimum of about $335. Annualizing this number based on typical senior citizen facility patterns, the average annual fee for public performance licenses in a senior citizen facility can be well over $20,000. And we all know how hard it is to get a senior citizen to part with a dollar -- and they are proud of it!

Why the Change of Heart?

The MPLC has been tight-lipped regarding why they have begun to enforce this rule. Many believe MPLC is creating a problem where one doesn't exist. Most of these senior citizens are law-abiding people, not pirating bootleggers. Others believe the MPLC is just trying to show that they have the power, or the upper hand, in this viewing relationship.

But to be empowered over seniors seems sad, at best. Two large and powerful senior citizens facilities in Southern California, Meta Housing and EngAGE, have had enough, and hopefully are ready to push back, for the sake of elderly people across America. After all, MPLC only charges libraries about $285, which serves about 100,000 people. Can we show a little love for the Grumpy Old Men and Miss Daisies out there?

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