The MPAA contacted Swarthmore administrators last year about repeated infringements of copyright law; they did not threaten a suit, but they did inform the college that it had been breaking the law through unauthorized movie showings. In order to better comply with the law, the rules about when films could be shown on campus and the structure for funding these films were both changed.
According to Charlie Decker ’09, Movie Committee chair, his committee took a while to get up and running this year because the former chair decided to take the semester off at the last minute and a new chair had to be hired and trained. Because of the new rules, Movie Committee has taken on the responsibility of deciding which films will be shown on campus. “Any group that wants to show a movie to the campus must obtain a license,” wrote Decker in an e-mail, “They must go to the SBC website and fill out a form specifying what the film is and why the group wants it shown. The form is sent to the Movie Committee, which will either approve the film and buy the license or not. Once approved, the group is in charge of advertising and all that jazz.”
Movie Committee also has a budget of its own to show movies on the weekends. Decker wrote that students can look forward to “Brick this weekend and Talledega Nights next weekend to round out the semester. Next semester, expect among others Casino Royale, The Departed, and Let’s Go to Prison.”
Film Society has traditionally been Swarthmore’s source for what chair Ben Firestone ’07 described as “foreign, underground, independent and out of print films.” Film Society’s funding remains independent of Movie Committee, but the copyright rules affect them as well. The reorganization of film rules and film funding resulted in “a reduced operating budget for Film Society and increased compliance with copyright restrictions.” In the past, “Film Society was able to purchase enough screening licenses to run a film series over the course of the year in which about half of the films we projected were legally licensed rentals, with the gaps filled in by unlicensed screenings of cool stuff from McCabe.”
Because of the tighter copyright restrictions, Film Society can no longer have unlicensed screenings, and because of the smaller budget, it cannot purchase rights to enough films for a yearlong film series. With these considerations in mind, Firestone explained, “we felt it made more sense this year to condense the series into one semester. Rather than show one movie every two or three weeks, we want to establish a solid pattern where people will know that on a certain night of the week, they can show up at Science Center 101 and have a sweet cinematic experience.”