Dear LH, I'm planning to set up an outdoor cinema in my backyard next summer. This is only for personal use with friends and family, but I read somewhere that you're not allowed to publicly screen movies without permission from the copyright holder. Is this something I should be worried about? Or is it just a case of possibly annoying the neighbours who will be able to hear it? Cheers, Van Damme Fan
Outdoor cinema picture from Shutterstock
According to the Australian Copyright Council, owning a physical copy of a film, DVD or video does not entitle you to screen it publicly. However, this law only applies to "public settings" such as community halls, motels and pubs.
When it comes to domestic settings, which includes backyards, you're generally allowed to watch movies however you want. The size of the screen or gathering isn't important: as long as you're out of view from the general public and aren't charging people for the privilege of attending, you should be in the clear.
Naturally, you need to stick to legitimately purchased movies — so don't screen any pirated material in case your neighbours decide to dob you in. While we're on the subject of neighbours, you should also be mindful of your setup's volume level.
There are restrictions in Australia that limit the amount of noise you can make in residential areas; particularly in the evening when people expect a certain level of peace and quiet. In other words, don't crank up the volume on action movies without getting permission from your neighbours first.
The same obviously goes for adult content: anything that could be considered obscene, or even unsuitable for children, should probably be enjoyed inside your own home. (Unless you have very high fences!)
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