Copyright will limit showing of movies
Q: Our social club has been showing a movie obtaining a rental DVD once a month. We show it in our meeting room for our members to view. We received a letter from a company in Los Angeles advising us that showing the movie is an infringement of copyright. They advise us that if we want to continue to show movies, we must obtain an umbrella license from them. The cost is $2,300 per year.
Should we disregard their letter or can we risk incurring substantial fines? We do not have funds to pay for this license.
A: Do not ignore this letter! The Motion Picture Licensing Corporation (MPLC) is a real agency that can impose serious fines if movies are shown without a license. Fines can start at $750 but can be as high as $150,000.
Since you have been warned, I would immediately stop showing any movies. This is not a new agency as I answered a similar question in 2007 and was contacted by MPLC. They sent me an information package to confirm the copyright violation. For other condominiums and HOA that show rented or purchased DVD or movies to their members, check their copyright restrictions. If you are showing movies to the members of the community, you need a license. MPLC can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-462-8855 to verify your rights to show movies.
I have an alternate answer to showing movies. Many movies are out of copyright and a list can be found at the Movies Foundation (www.moviesfoundonline.com). They claim that they have thousands of out-of-copyright movies that you can download. One example is It's a Wonderful Life.
Lawyer can lead, but pay for legal aid
Q: We are a small HOA that was formed about 26 years ago. We recently elected a new board, and there is a practicing attorney elected and was voted as the president. He has assumed some of the duties as our attorney.
Some members are thrilled that we do not have to pay for legal advice and others question about the conflict of interest in his being a resident and attorney representing our association and interests. Do you have any advice on this existing situation?
A: In most situations I would not consider it a conflict of interest since it is well known that he is an attorney.
However, I would recommend that the association still have an outside attorney to handle most official recordings. How many legal documents does your association file in a year? Normally it is few if any.
With today's economy, you will have more collections issues including liens and foreclosures. Are you aware that all legal costs will be added to the amount due by the delinquent owner? Thus, the legal costs are not a factor in many situations.
My guess is that he is a fine attorney and would be a strong leader for the community.
I am sure that he will help guide the board in the proper direction but I would not place the burden of legal actions without compensation.