FBI Anti-Piracy Warning for Your Films

When you watch a movie or TV series on DVD at home, one of the first things you are typically greeted with is a blue screen displaying an FBI logo and some language about a $250,000 fine for copying the movie.  These warnings aren’t just for big studio movies.  Amateur moviemakers, local videographers, and small independent productions can all use similar warning text.  A movie, slide show, or any sort of copyrighted work can bear the warning.  The following text can be used anyone:

Warning: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to five years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.

This warning will apprise the viewer that the work is protected by copyright (it is protected by copyright even without this warning, of course) and that the owner takes copyright law seriously.  The warning doesn’t really create any rights for the owner; after all, the warning speaks to criminal consequences, which the owner, as a private entity, can’t control.  But, it does show the viewer that the owner doesn’t take copyright infringement likely, and that, in addition to facing civil liability, the copier could be risking criminal punishment.

The logo above can only be used by certain entities.  While the FBI allows anyone to use the warning text, the logo is only available to members of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), and several other industry organizations, if the members themselves sign a licensing agreement specifying the terms of that use.

Special Disclaimer: this use of the logo above is for illustrative purposes, and the firm is not a party to any agreement with the FBI allowing its use.  It is used here for educational purposes.

Similar Posts


  1. Is it legal for a 501 (c) 3 non-profit corporation to show a dvd to it’s membership without contacting the dvd’s distributor?

    1. Hi Rick, Sorry, I can’t answer this question for you as I’m not your lawyer. There are some facts which can affect the answer. Perhaps some other readers can help you, or you could contact a local attorney for an answer. Best of luck. -Tom

    2. Q We’re a non-profit organization. Do we still need a license?
      A Yes. Under the law, it doesn’t matter if you’re a non-profit or for-profit organization. You are required to have a public performance license to show motion pictures and other audiovisual works.

      Q We’re not open to the general public. Do we still need a license?
      A Yes. According to Senate Report No. 94-473, p. 60, “performances in ‘semipublic’ places such as clubs, lodges, factories, summer camps and schools are ‘public performances’ subject to copyright control.”

      Source: Motion Picture Licensing Corporation of America

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *