NJ CAR has had meetings with the representatives of MPLC to stave off any potential aggressive enforcement action against our members. However, this does not prevent MPLC from deciding to pursue copyright infringement action.
MPLC provides protection for movie studios and charges a yearly fee to grant a license to play its members’ content. U.S. copyright law generally does require a “public performance” license to be able to play copyrighted content, such as movies, television programming, and music, in public areas.
Copyright infringement can lead to significant liability, with hefty statutory damages, so it is wise to ensure that the proper licensing is in place. Copyright owners deploy increasingly sophisticated means of detecting infringement and enforcing their rights. If you receive a cease-and-desist letter, it may include a demand for a hefty settlement and threats of litigation. To date, we have only been notified of dealers receiving solicitations, however, it is possible that more intrusive actions could be forthcoming.
It is possible that many dealers may have a license that is included in their cable or satellite package. Cable and satellite companies have licenses to broadcast this programing, the question is whether the commercial package that a dealership contracts for, contains those licenses. If you have a commercial package, that package should provide appropriate licensing and you should check with your vendor.
Dealers should take the following steps to avoid a possible copyright violation:
1. Check with your cable or satellite provider to see if the package you purchased is a commercial use package and if the appropriate licenses are contained within the commercial use package. If that is the case, you can ignore any other communications from MPLC or advise them that you have a commercial license.
2. If you are using a streaming service such as Netflix or Hulu for televisions in public areas (customer waiting area), it is less likely that public performance rights are included in your package, but it is still worthwhile to check.
3. Dealerships should not play movies on any DVD that you have personally purchased in the dealership waiting area as that would be a copyright violation. The purchase of those movies is intended for personal use only.
4. If you are displaying programming in your public areas that is not covered by an appropriate license, a MPLC license may be a good choice considering the pricing for an “Umbrella License” is fairly low.
5. You should be careful to make sure your televisions are not showing any excluded programming. You may find it simplest to lock certain channels so your televisions can only show content that is properly licensed or better yet sign up with one of the many commercial services that includes a license.