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Copyright and Fair Use: Film Sources

Information on copyright law and fair use in an academic setting. This guide is based on guide at Used with permission.

Film Sources from the Rohrbach Library

Public Showing of Films on Campus

Anytime a group shows a movie that is open to the public, the group must purchase the public performance rights for that particular movie. Public performance rights currently cost between $300-$800 per showing for popular titles from major movie distributors or for films you may have acquired on Amazon. Public performance rights for independent films could cost less. Public performance rights must be purchased even if you are not charging admission or are having an educational panel or discussion before or after the film. Size of the potential audience may influence the cost of the public performance rights.

Susan Czerny, Copyright Librarian, has assisted groups on campus with this process.  She is willing to help you obtain performance rights for a film.  She can be reached at, 610-683-4174.

You can contact the following vendors to get pricing for performance rights:

Criterion Pictures
(800) 890-9494

Motion Picture Licensing Corporation
(800) 462-8855

Swank Motion Pictures, Inc
(800) 876-5577

Plan ahead. If  you ask the library to order a film or thinking about acquiring it yourself, you must learn about purchasing public performance rights at the same time. This is generally cheaper, and the library can often obtain rights with a one-time fee for educational or documentary materials. Feature films are generally not available that way.

Best Practices

Free/Inexpensive Film Sources

  • Academic Earth    
    Free online video courses from leading universities.
  • Annenberg Learner    
    "Uses media and telecommunications to advance excellent teaching in American schools. This mandate is carried out chiefly by the funding and broad distribution of educational video programs with coordinated Web and print materials for the professional development of K-12 teachers." Includes films appropriate for college students.
  • Archaeology Channel    
     "It explores the human cultural heritage through streaming media."
  • C-SPAN Video Library    
    Every C-SPAN program aired since 1987. Watch the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings, the Challenger explosion, and much more.
  • European Film Gateway    
    "Access to hundreds of thousands of film historical documents as preserved in European film archives and cinémathèques: photos, posters, programmes, periodicals, censorship documents, rare feature and documentary films, newsreels and other materials...The EFG offers a look at and behind the scenes of filmmaking in Europe from the early days until today. The EFG facilitates online access to historical documents and leads you directly to the archives that hold the originals."
  • Internet Archive: Moving Image Archive    
    "Contains thousands of digital movies uploaded by Archive users which range from classic full-length films, to daily alternative news broadcasts, to cartoons and concerts."
  • Minnesota Video Vault    
    From tpt (Twin Cities Public Television)
  • movieclips    
    "With over 12,000 movie clips, you can search, find, view, discuss and share scenes from your favorite movies."
  • PBS Video    
    An interesting collection of films created by federal agencies, including: the Iran Contra Hearings; the Royal Ballet of Cambodia; and several long clips of The Roswell Reports ("eyewitness accounts").
  • SnagFilms: Watch Free Documentaries Online    
    "SnagFilms is committed to finding the world‘s most compelling documentaries, whether from established heavyweights or first-time filmmakers, and making them available to the wide audience these titles deserve."
  • TED: Ideas Worth Spreading    
    "On, we make the best talks and performances from TED and partners available to the world, for free...We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the world. So we're building here a clearinghouse that offers free knowledge and inspiration from the world's most inspired thinkers, and also a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other..."
  • Vimeo    
    "Vimeo was created by filmmakers and video creators who wanted to share their creative work, along with intimate personal moments of their everyday life. As time went on, like-minded people came to the site and built a community of positive, encouraging individuals with a wide range of video interests."