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Copyright Guidelines

Information and links to quality information about copyright issues.

Guidelines for Showing Movies on Campus

Most movies (i.e. audiovisual works in all formats) are protected by copyright law, giving exclusive rights to the copyright owner--including public performance rights. Any movie shown in a public place (auditorium, meeting room, etc.) or to any substantial group (beyond family and friends) is considered a public performance. It is not relevant whether there is a charge to view the movie or not.

Some important exceptions:

  • Section 110 (1) of the copyright law allows movies to be shown, without permission from the copyright owner, provided that they are shown "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" as long as the performance is from a legal copy of the movie, such as from a DVD owned by the library.
  • Movies that are no longer protected by copyright may be shown without restriction. This includes movies that are in the public domain: e.g. on January 1, 2023, copyrighted works from 1927 entered the public domain. Works created by the U.S. government may also be viewed without restriction. There are also some copyright owners who explicitly make their work available with few restrictions.

Unless referenced in the exceptions above, all other public showings of movies require permission from the copyright holder before they can be shown. It is the responsibility of the sponsoring department or organization to secure permission or pay a license fee for any public showing. Licensing fees generally range from $200 to $500.

Securing Performance Rights

Begin the process well before your event. Obtaining performance rights is often easy and low-cost, but occasionally it can be difficult or prohibitively expensive.

Try obtaining performance rights from one of the companies that license movies on behalf of film companies. Some of the licensing companies are:

If performance rights for a movie is not available from one of these companies, permission may sometimes be granted directly from the copyright holder. The movie's website or packaging will often indicate the copyright holder; often it is the movie studio. Use the company's website to determine contact methods. The company may request information regarding the name of the organization which will show the movie, the title and format of the movie, where and when the movie will be shown, the anticipated size of the audience, whether there will be an admission charge, etc.

Do I Need To Obtain Performance Rights?





if the screening is open to the public, such as showing a foreign-language film to the community for cultural enrichment

if privately viewing the film in your room with friends

if 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

if an instructor is showing the film to officially registered students in a classroom, where content of film directly relates to course

Creative Commons License

Unless otherwise noted, the content of these guides by Loras College Library, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Some icons by Yusuke Kamiyamane. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.