Most films for home video in the US begin with an FBI warning that includes some variation of this message:

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Licensed only for non commercial private exhibition in homes.

Any public performance other use or copying is strictly prohibited.

All rights under copyright reserved.

What is the difference between a "private exhibition" and a "public performance"?


A private exhibition is one to which specific individuals are invited, as opposed to a public performance which is open to anyone, or perhaps to anyone who buys a ticket. A private exhibition will not usually charge admission, either, although some public performances are free of charge, so that cannot be the criterion.

An ordinary commercial theater showing is a public performance.

In this case, however, the further restriction "in homes" is added, so only private exhibitions in a private home are authorized. Also, the limitation "non-commercial" is added, so any gathering that charges admission will not be in accord with the license.

In short, such recordings may be played for a gathering of family and friends in a private home, with no charge for admission, but not for some event open to the public, nor for any event in a public space, as opposed to a home.

  • 1
    The "private homes" clause is presumably there to prevent a club from doing an end-run around the need to buy a commercial license. – Paul Johnson Mar 25 '19 at 10:56

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