Films are copyrighted just as text and music are. Showing a film to a group may require obtaining public performance rights.
Can I Show a Film Without Performance Rights?
The screening is open to the public, such as showing a foreign-language film to the community for cultural enrichment.
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 in a public or unrestricted-access location
People attending are outside the normal circle of family and acquaintances, such as showing a film to a club or organization, or showing a film for class but inviting others to attend
The screening is a private viewing of the film in your room with friends.
An instructor is showing the film to officially registered students in a classroom, where content of film directly relates to course. (The Copyright Law, 28 U.S. C. 17 § 110(1), 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.”)
Which Films Have Performance Rights?
Some library films are purchased with performance rights. Library streaming video databases that contain films purchased with performance rights are:
You can also search our catalog for DVDs with public performance rights.
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.
Tips on Finding Copyright Holders
- Search the United States Copyright Office database of registered copyright holders
- Search WorldCat for Amazon for newer formats of the film. The copyright holder will likely be included.
- Google the copyright holder
Copyright Licensing Agents
If you cannot contact the copyright holder directly, you may be able to check with a copyright licensing agent to obtain performance rights.
Swank Motion Pictures, Inc. is the major non-theatrical movie distributor and public performance licensing agent in venues where feature movies are shown publicly.
If you have questions, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. We are happy to help!