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Answered By: Stephanie Licko
Last Updated: Mar 05, 2018     Views: 1

If your group would like to show a film you should know that you have to acquire the movie with performance rights or the movie must be in the "public domain". Failure to obtain permission will result in violating copyright law, even if the showing is a free event.

Showing a film in an educational classroom for teaching purposes is an exception to this rule.

How do you obtain "performance rights?"

The quick answer is that you pay for them. Typically, performance rights are paid for at the time of purchase of the DVD or digital file. DVDs purchased from a retail outlet do not come with performance rights. An institution may purchase an umbrella license that allows for public performance of films from one vendor (Warner Bros., for example).

Phillips and Scott libraries do not have an umbrella license and our materials are not licensed for public performance. Your group will need to obtain performance rights (typically, the fees are $300 or more).

What is "public domain?"

Although there is no single method for determining if a film - or parts of it - is in the public domain, most have entered the public domain because they were:

  1. released without Copyright Notices
  2. were never registered with the Library of Congress, had improper or late registrations
  3. were not renewed after 28 years under the old requirements for films made before 1964
Most current films are protected under copyright.