Film Screenings & Festivals
A Guide to Public Performance Rights
Showing a film to a group may require obtaining public performance rights (PPR). It is up to you to determine what you need to do to comply with copyright law.
Do I Need To Obtain Performance Rights?
How Do I Obtain Performance Rights?
Make sure we don't already have them.
The library often purchases titles at an institutional price that includes public performance rights. Do an advanced Tripod search for "public performance rights" limited to SC General collections to see some titles for which we own performance rights. Contact a librarian to confirm performance rights as there are occasionally additional restrictions, such as maximum audience size.
If we don't have performance rights, you must contact the copyright holder to obtain them. Individuals and organizations are responsible for obtaining performance rights for library-owned films.
Find out who owns or controls the rights.
- Swank Motion Pictures, Inc. manages performance rights for many large and independent studios, and is a good first stop.
- Check the container of your video to find the copyright holder.
- Don't have the video yet? You can find publisher and filmmaker information on Worldcat. Search for the most recently-released version of the film.
- Other rights providers: Criterion Pictures USA, New Yorker, Warner Brothers, MPLC, Goethe Institute.
Contact the copyright holder and tell them about your screening.
Be sure to mention that your event is for a non-paying audience. They might also want to know about the size of your venue or expected audience, and how you plan to advertise. Be honest about your price range; sometimes copyright holders are open to negotiation.
Get your permission in writing and keep it in your records.
* Section 110(1) of the Copyright Law, Title 17, U.S. Code http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap1.html#110, provides an exemption for certain educational uses of videorecordings. Specifically, it allows for "performance or display of a work by instructors or pupils in the course of face-to-face teaching activities of a nonprofit educational institution, in a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction." For further information see Janis H. Bruwelheide, The copyright primer for librarians and educators (Chicago: American Library Association; Washington, DC: National Education Association, 1995), 50-63.
** See Cornell's thorough table on Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States, or this simpler interactive guide, Digital copyright slider.
PPR table and other content on this page used with permission from Williams College Library.