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At the Association of Corporate Counsel annual meeting in Orlando last week, Julie Maresca, general counsel of the Motion Picture Licensing Corporation, attended a session on intellectual property. Given her line of work, it’s no surprise that the video clips used in the session left an impression. Similarly, it makes plenty of sense to her why companies show movies in the office—especially during meetings. “They spice up a presentation,” says the GC. But whether companies set up screenings in a conference room, a break room, or even an on-site child-care center, part of Maresca’s job is making them aware of the public performance license that MPLC administers. “If it’s intended for your personal, private use, and you use it in a public setting, then our license would come into play.” That’s a message many in-house counsel might not have heard yet. “When we approach companies, they don’t realize that their training staff, or people who are giving presentations, are using films,” she says. “They just don’t realize it.” An attorney with an MBA from Italy’s SDA Bocconi School of Management, Maresca has been with MPLC for nearly 10 years and is the organization’s sole in-house lawyer. With a presence in 22 countries today, MPLC started in 1986 when Hollywood executives realized that individuals were taking video cassettes intended for personal home viewing and showing them in workplaces like dental offices. Executives from MGM and Paramount, together with an attorney from the Motion Picture Association of America, took the lead to form MPLC. The idea was to gather public performance rights from studios, bundle them under one license, and make it easy for consumers to use properly licensed video, Maresca explains. With an annual license, consumers don’t have to knock on a producer’s door every time they want permission. Instead, the “umbrella license” allows them to watch any video they want from a given list of producers. There are some limitations. License-holders, for example, can’t charge an admission fee when they show movies, and they can’t advertise the viewing to the general public. And, in keeping with MPLC’s anti-piracy efforts, users can only get a license for material they obtained legally—not for bootleg copies or illegal downloads. So how do people know they’re supposed to get a license? MPLC largely takes an informational approach to explaining how the law and the license work. Earlier this year, MPLC began partnering with the Copyright Clearance Center to better reach the corporate segment of the market. For smaller businesses, Maresca bears in mind many might find contact with a lawyer “frightening.” “This isn’t ‘Buy it, or you’re going to go to jail.’ I want them just to understand what the law is,” says Maresca. “Eighty percent of what we do is just letting people know.” The reaction tends to be positive. “Usually, when people know what the law is and are given a reasonable price point, they want to comply and do the right thing,” Maresca says. But nor does the company shy away from taking further action when necessary.

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