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Copyright Law & Fair Use: Media & Films

Research guide discussing copyright law, fair use, TEACH act, and public performance rights.

Public Performance of a Film

According to US copyright code the copyright holder retains the ability to authorize public performance of a film, video, or TV program.  This means performing, showing or broadcasting the work in a public place may be prohibited. This statute applies to all videos currently under copyright. This includes videos you have purchased, borrowed from the library, or services like Netflix or Disney+. There are specific exceptions to this (see the box to the right). 

When you're using a film, video, or TV program in a classroom for teaching or educational purposes, such performance or display of the entire work may be allowed without permission under the face to face teaching exemption at 17 U.S.C. §110(1).

When showing a film in an online class, it may be considered fair use depending on how much of the film is being shown and for what purposes. If fair use does not apply, you will need a streaming license or view the film through a licensed streaming film provider.

When in doubt, please ask! Contact Stan Cottrell. 

Streaming Video Available through McKee Library

AVON includes public performance rights except for the films on the Film Platform channel.

All films in the databases below include public performance rights.

Do I Need Public Performance Rights?

YES -- you need public performance rights:

  • If the showing of the video is open to the public, such as a screening at a public event, OR
  • If the showing is in a public space where access is not restricted, such as a a showing of a film for a class but in a venue that is open to anyone to attend, OR
  • If persons attending are outside the normal circle of family and friends, such as a showing of a film by a club or organization.

NO -- you do not need public performance rights:

  • If you are privately viewing the film in your home with only family and friends in attendance, OR
  • If you are an instructor showing the film in class as part of the course curriculum to officially enrolled students in a classroom that is not open to others to attend, OR
  • If the film is in the public domain.

How to Obtain Public Performance Rights

Individuals and organizations are responsible for obtaining public performance rights for all non-exempt showings. There are two ways to obtain PPR, also known as permission or a license:

1.   Contact the copyright holder directly, or contact the distributor.  If the distributor has the authority from the copyright owner to grant licenses, to purchase public performance rights or to request permission for a particular public performance use, permission or license can be directly obtained.

2.   Contact the licensing service representing the particular studio or title (note - this will generally be required for all feature length films). Services vary in the types of licensing offered and the scope of materials represented. Some of the companies that provide (for a fee) public performance licenses are listed below:​

Contact Stan Cottrell for additional assistance in locating the appropriate licensing agent for your particular film.