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Extra Credit: A Seat in Class Is No Ticket to a Movie

(By Julie Zhu)

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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Dear Extra Credit:

I was surprised to read the letter saying that showing movies after testing seems to be prevalent in the Fairfax County school system (Sept. 17). I retired from 30 years in the Alexandria public schools. In working toward my degree to become a school librarian, one of my classes involved copyright laws.

I learned that showing movies to children in school, unless there is a strong educational tie-in with active teaching going on, is an infringement of copyright law and subject to fines of up to $200,000 per incident, even if the movie is owned by the school. The wider the audience, the greater the infringement.

I am surprised that such showings are going on in Fairfax. I had been under the impression that it was strict about the enforcement of these laws.

Kathy Orr


Your intriguing suggestion that movie-showing teachers might be just a few steps away from a lawsuit led me to ask several school district spokespeople about this. The answers were not consistent. I pray some legal scholar specializing in attempts to rip off Steven Spielberg will write and give me the case law. Here is what I was told:

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