Noxious copyright warnings; noxious copyright websites

by Suw on June 12, 2004

Earlier today, James 'did a Cory' and took his camera with him to the cinema so that he could take a photo of the noxious copyright warning at the beginning of The Day After Tomorrow. He didn't quite get the same reaction Cory got, but did get a link to the FACT (Federation Against Copyright Theft) website.
After taking a look around the FACT site, he found the FAQs & Glossary page, from which I shall reproduce the entirety of the FAQ section:

Frequently Asked Questions
How do I protect my film/script? – Through copyright or trademark legislation
Do I need permission to use an extract from a film? – Yes
Do I need a license to set up my own video rental store? – No
Am I able to show films to a group of people even if I don't charge for it? – No

James takes issue with their usage of the word 'film', but for me the most important issue is that last question there, which prompts me to ask: “So, if I have a bunch of mates over for a party and we decide to watch a DVD, we're breaking the law?”
The answer is clearly 'No'. Of course I can watch a film with some friends and a few beers. The FACT question is misleading because it fails to include any reference to the venue in which the film is being shown. It is illegal to show a film to any group of people in a public place – such as a village hall, school, hospital or coach. It is not, however, illegal to show a film to a group of people in your own home. If it were, the DVD market would be dead in the water and we'd all be criminals.
I think the wording of this last FAQ is probably deliberate, designed to put the wind up the poor, law-abiding citizens who happen to come across it. But considering that the FACT website is supposedly about upholding the law, surely it behoves them to get their facts right (pun entirely intended), particularly with respect to the laws they are purportedly upholding? Misleading people by omission is still misleading them, even if it's technically not promulgating actual untruths.
The answers to the other questions in the FAQ are also risible. For example, gaining protection for a non-professional film or script (professionals don't really need this sort of advice) is a touch more complicated than the 'rely on the law' pseudo-advice they give.
I often see discussions about how writers can protect their work on Zoetrope, and the baseline reality remains the same: studios find it easier to pay for your work than steal it; if you do get your work stolen by, say, someone pretending to have written it themselves you are probably going to have to kiss it goodbye, unless you have the money to fight it through the courts.
OK, so maybe that's not what people want to hear, but it's reality and it illustrates that these laws favour those with enough cash to make use of them. Maybe the uselessness of copyright law in this particular area explains why they don't even give links to other resources that provide more detailed advice.
Finally, I find myself terribly curious to know how many times they've been asked if one needs a licence to open a video store. Of all the questions the FAQ could have answered, they must have had a lot of enquiries about video stores to choose that one.
UPDATE: AKMA queues for his turn with the DVD player.

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