Is It Legal To Screen A Movie In Your Own Backyard?

Consumer projectors, while not exactly mainstream, have gained some popularity and some people use them in backyards to host their own mini cinema screening of movies. But with all the high-profile copyright infringement cases flying around in recent years, it's worth looking at whether running your own backyard cinema is legal or not.

Backyard cinema girl image from Shutterstock

You might think that because you own a physical copy of a movie and you're showing the film on your own property that it's perfectly legal to do so. You'd be right, to an extent. According to the Australian Copyright Council, it's illegal to show a physical copy of a film or DVD in a "public setting". This includes community halls, motels and pubs so playing a movie, even on a big screen with a projector is fine so long as you are following these guidelines:

  • You are playing the movie through a legitimately bought copy of the film or TV show. That means no pirated episodes of Game of Thrones.
  • The screen you're showing the content on is out of view from the general public. We hope you have tall fences…
  • You're not charging people for the privilege of attending your backyard cinema show.
  • You're not playing obscene content while children are present.
  • You're not exceeding the noise restriction rules in your neighbourhood.

Other than that, have fun hosting your awesome backyard cinema party. Also, can we please get an invite?

Did you just catch yourself wondering if something was legal or not? Let us know and we may be able to answer it in our next Is It Legal? feature.



    always wondered the specifics behind this. THANKS!

    Does the stipulation about charging include if the screening is for charity?

    @smatizio Yes. Contact the distributor/studio first, ask them to sponsor the screening, they aren't closed to those kinds of events.

    Last edited 21/03/16 7:35 pm

      Thanks Smithy!

    A public setting is NEVER your own backyard, no matter what the movie studios say.

    Lol! By Lifehacker's logic I'm breaking the law every time I watch TV in the front room with the blinds open... Fail.

    You don't need fences to watch movies in your backyard.

    Last edited 22/03/16 10:44 am

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