Showing Movies at Camp? Know the Licensing Laws

Movie Theater

Now more than ever, movies are an easy, affordable way to provide entertainment to campers of all ages. Whether it’s a fun Friday flick, an outdoor movie night, a dive-in pool or lake-side film, or a special occasion, camp screenings of motion pictures are more popular than ever before.

Maybe your camp is one of many that rents or owns an inflatable movie screen for twilight films under the stars. Whether indoors or outdoors, the laws regarding video use at your camp remain the same.

As the camp season approaches, please be reminded that a public performance license is required when movies or DVDs are shown at your camp. The Motion Picture Licensing Corporation (MPLC) is an independent copyright licensing agency authorized by movie studios to issue the Umbrella License®—the license your camp needs to comply with federal copyright law. Best of all, American Camp Association (ACA) members pay a discounted rate. If you are already an MPLC license holder, you need not reapply. Your license is automatically renewed at your guaranteed low rate.

ACA Members can access an Umbrella License at reduced fees to legally show movies at camp.

According to the Federal Copyright Act, Public Law 94-553, Title 17 of the United States Code, copyrighted motion pictures and other audiovisual programs that are available for rental or purchase in any legal format, such as DVDs or other digital formats, whether streamed or downloaded, are intended for personal, private use only. Exhibitions outside of your private residence require a public performance license. Civil penalties for unauthorized exhibitions start at $750 for each inadvertent infringement and go as high as $150,000 for each egregious violation. This legal requirement applies equally to for-profit and nonprofit facilities, whether or not an admission fee is charged.

With an Umbrella License your camp gains legal access to movies from over 1,000 movie producers ranging from Walt Disney and Warner Bros. to independent, specialty, and children’s producers. Furthermore, this annual license for your site also covers outside groups who rent your facility, protecting your camp from inadvertent copyright infringement.

If you currently show movies or plan to this season, please follow the link to the application below, and return it to the MPLC. Your Certificate of License will be sent by U.S. Mail.  Once you are licensed, your fee remains unchanged (except for possible CPI adjustments) representing a substantial cost savings.

If you have questions, please contact either the American Camp Association at 765-342-8456, or the MPLC at 800-462-8855 or