Under Australian copyright law, it is not legal to screen a DVD or a BluRay disc in a public place without permission from the copyright holder. A ‘public place’ includes any place where the public can meet, and includes church halls, meeting rooms, etc. It does not include a private home where a DVD/BluRay is screened for a few friends and no money is involved. However, this doesn’t mean you can advertise your home screenings. If you advertise an event it becomes a public event.’
If your society has a DVD/BluRay that you want to screen in a public place, you can contact the Australian distributor who manages the copyright for the film and ask for permission or “screening rights”. If you can’t locate the rights holder you can’t screen the film.
The distributor will charge you for the screening rights. All film societies are eligible for a discount from distributors, as long as they can establish that they operate as a not-for-profit organisation and conduct the screening as a non-theatrical event (they don’t charge for admission at the door, and screen to members only). The best way to assure a distributor that you are a genuine film society is to be a registered member of a Federation.
The Federation is accredited with the National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA) and all commercial distributors. We are in regular contact with all distributors, regularly updating our membership information. This is their guarantee that you are a genuine film society, so you don’t have to prove who you are every time you contact them. so remember, as a member of the Australian Film Societies Federation your society will be eligible for the special rates from distributors.
Distributors such as Amalgamated and Roadshow also provide DVDs you can use if you don’t own a copy of the film you want to screen.
You can’t screen a DVD or BluRay that is hired from a video rental store. Doing this is illegal, and carries big penalties. Distributors will generally have copies of the DVD or BluRay for sale. But you can use any disc that has been purchased legally. It doesn’t have to be owned by the society but if you own the disc it can become part of your DVD/BluRay library. Remember to get permission to screen the film before you buy the DVD.
It’s not always easy to find the distributor of a film you want to screen non-theatrically.
We have instructions on how to identify the company that has the rights to the film you want to show at our Finding a distributor page.
And their contact details are here at our Film Distributor page
When you have found the distributor, made contact and gone through the formalities, they will send you an approval to screen the film. You can then start publicising it.
And if you have any queries, you can always contact us.