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Screening a Film on Campus

If you advertise a campus film screening with a flyer or poster, you'll probably need to purchase a Public Performance Rights (PPR) license before showing the film. Public Performance Rights ensure that creators are fairly compensated for their work.

The libraries can help you figure this out, but when PPR are necessary you're responsible for obtaining them. Obtaining PPR may take time - plan ahead as much as possible!

Do I need Public Performance Rights?
Yes No
The screening is open to the public, such as showing a foreign-language film to the community for cultural enrichment. You are viewing the film in your room with friends.
The screening is in a public space where access is not restricted, such as an instructor showing a film to a class for curriculum-related purposes, but in a public or unrestricted-access location outside the classroom. You are an instructor showing the film to officially registered students in a classroom, where content of film directly relates to course.
The screening is publicly advertised on a flyer, Facebook, etc. People attending are outside the circle of friends and acquaintances, such as showing a film to a club or organization, or showing a film for class but inviting others not registered for the class to attend. The film is in the public domain. This is rare. Remember that a new soundtrack, colorization, or translation may constitute a new work which is therefore under copyright.
So I need them... how do I obtain Public Performance Rights?
  1. Do we already have access to the film?
    1. Check Tripod: the library often purchases titles at an institutional price that includes public performance rights.
    2. Didn't see it in Tripod? Look for the film in one of our streaming video platforms.
    3. Just because we have access to the film doesn't mean we automatically have PPR. Please contact to find out.
  2. If we do not have PPR for your film:
    1. Try to discover who owns the rights. (This may be tricky!)
      1. Look up the publisher and filmmaker. You can find publisher and filmmaker information on Worldcat. (Search for the most recently-released version of the film)
      2. Some major rights providers include: Criterion Pictures USA, Warner Brothers, Motion Picture Licensing Corporation, Goethe Institute.
  3. Contact the copyright holder and tell them about your screening. 
    1. Be sure to mention:
      1. That your event is for a non-paying audience
      2. Your budget (some rightsholders may negotiate on price)
      3. The size of your venue or expected audience
      4. How you plan to advertise
    2. Get permission and keep it in your records!

Section 110(1) of the Copyright Law, Title 17, U.S. Code, 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 University's thorough table on Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States.

PPR table and other content on this page used with permission from Williams College Library.