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Copyright and Fair Use: Showing Movies

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

Showing Movies in a Classroom

Any legal copy of a movie (from the library, purchased or rental) can be shown in face-to-face classroom instruction by a faculty member. The movies can be shown during class time or outside the normal class period (at night for example). However, the showing must be only for those students who are registered for the class. The movie must be shown in spaces that are designated for instruction--not residence halls or the student center.

Library Streaming Video Databases

The films in these streaming databases provided by the library can be shown in your classroom or assigned to students to view outside of the classroom.

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.