FORMED at the Movies

Parish movie nights are an effective and simple opportunity to bring people together for a fun and faith-filled evening, and FORMED has much to offer in the way of high-quality Catholic films to captivate your flock’s interest. There are, however, copyright issues involved in showing a movie or documentary publicly. The following is a summary of the Federal Copyright Act:

The Federal Copyright Act (Title 17 of the U.S. Code) governs how copyrighted materials, such as movies, may be used. Neither the rental nor the purchase of a copy of a copyrighted work carries with it the right to publicly exhibit the work. No additional license is required to privately view a movie or other copyrighted work with a few friends and family or in certain narrowly defined face-to-face teaching activities. However, bars, restaurants, private clubs, prisons, lodges, factories, summer camps, public libraries, daycare facilities, parks and recreation departments, churches and non-classroom use at schools and universities are all examples of situations where a public performance license must be obtained. This legal requirement applies regardless of whether an admission fee is charged, whether the institution or organization is commercial or non-profit, or whether a federal or state agency is involved.

To use a parallel example: owning the DVD of any given film does not give the owner the rights to use that DVD to stage a public viewing. Additional licensing must be purchased for that particular use of the DVD. Similarly, per the Federal Copyright Act, additional rights must also be obtained in order to host a public showing of copyrighted movies on FORMED. But there is a way . . .

A Quick Q&A:


1. What material on FORMED is copyrighted? What can be shown publicly without restrictions?

Simply put, all videos on the STUDY page can be shown publicly in the parish, school, or other community setting without obtaining any additional licensing. These include Augustine Institute original series, Hearts Afire Parish-Based Programs, and many other highly-acclaimed Catholic series. Material on the LISTEN and READ pages can also be used publicly.

Videos on the WATCH page require additional rights to show publicly.

2. What constitutes a public viewing?

Inviting a few friends or your family to watch a film in the home does not require any additional licensing, but churches are considered one setting among many in which licenses must be obtained if a copyrighted work is shown publicly. This is true regardless of whether an admission fee is charged. See the official statement above for more details.

3. How do I obtain a license to show a movie on FORMED publicly?

We’re glad you asked! Most of the films on FORMED come from Ignatius Press. Ignatius Press offers a Night at the Movies deal in which your parish can obtain the necessary licenses to show the movie, and even charge an admission fee or ask for free-will donations as a fundraiser for your community. The rights to movies produced by other organizations can be obtained by approaching the individual movie provider.