Holding a public showing of a video

The public display or performance of a copyrighted film on campus requires a public performance license from the copyright holder, typically the producer or distributor of the work.  In many cases, a public performance license can be purchased via a designated licensing agent.  

Not all showings of a film on campus require a public performance license.  When is a public performance license needed and when is it not?

Yes - license needed

The public display of a copyrighted work is where the showing occurs in a place open to the public or a place where a substantial number of persons outside of the normal circle of a family and its social acquaintances are gathered.  It can also refer to a situation where the work is being transmitted online or via cable broadcast (See Title 17 of the United States Code, Chapter 1, Section 101).  Examples of such display include the following:

  • Student club events
  • Meetings, programs, or other campus sponsored extracurricular events including film showings in the resident halls
  • Film series or festivals
  • Online teaching environments

No - license not needed

  • Classroom use as part of the college curriculum (i.e. when an instructor or student uses a legally obtained work for face-to-face classroom instruction in a course at the college - See Title 17 of the United States Code, Chapter 1, Section 110(1).)
  • Display of a work that is in the public domain (i.e. creative materials that are not protected by intellectual property laws)
  • Display in a non-public space such as a private home (or dorm room) where the viewing is in the company of a normal circle of family or social acquaintances

Library and other campus resources for public display

The library doesn’t always purchase public performance rights with DVDs or individual streaming titles but in some cases we have.  To get a list of these videos, do an Advanced Search in the Library Catalog for the phrase “public performance” and limit by Material Type to Video/Film.  A reference to public performance rights should be included in the notes field.  If you are unsure if a titles includes public performance rights, ask a librarian.

Library video streaming subscriptions licenses:

  • Kanopy
    • Kanopy videos can be watched by any and all authorized viewers (e.g. students, faculty, and staff).  Viewing films in a group forum is permitted for all films for classroom viewings and most films for non-classroom group settings as long as the viewing is by authorized viewers and it is not for commercial benefit (i.e. no admission costs are charged and no profit is made from the screening).
    • To be sure a Kanapy video can be shown in a group forum, we will need to contact them to confirm.  This will take time so please give us a few weeks to confirm.  Contact Ask a Librarian for help.
  • Academic Video Online
    • Academic Video Online content (including Alexander Street Press videos) can be shown for non-theatrical public performances such as free (no admission fee) campus screenings and reasonable classroom and educational uses.

WTOP (student-run television station housed on the campus of SUNY Oswego) offers Movies On Demand, a program that allows anyone in residence halls to access over 450 movies online for free.  The service includes additional resources and program materials for some movies. Contact WTOP for details. 


How to obtain a public performance license for a particular work

If the library doesn’t have the movie you want with a public performance license for the venue you are planning, try obtaining the license you need through one of the following copyright licensing agents.

Student organizations are subject to the same public performance requirements as the rest of campus.  The Events Management staff of Campus Life are available to help with public performances.  Please contact them at 135 Marano Campus Center or at 315-312-2301.

  • Swank Motion Pictures, Inc., Swank licenses and distributes content for public viewing to non-theatrical entities such as U.S. colleges and universities.  See their Best Practices Guide.
  • Criterion Pictures USA, Criterion Pictures provides public performance licensing for feature films for Colleges and Universities in North America.
  • Kino Lorber Edu  - Offers public performance licensing for higher education to films that examine important social issues through humanities-based inquiry, plus cinema classics, film studies, literature, theatre, World Cinema and more.
  • Motion Picture Licensing Corporation is an independent copyright licensing agency that provides the Umbrella License to ensure copyright compliance for the public performance of motion pictures.
  • Milestone Films – Known for classic cinema masterpieces, groundbreaking documentaries, and American independent features, Milestone offers film booking for public performance.  See Ordering page.
  • If none of the above has the film, try going to Internet Movie Database. First, look up the title of the film. When you have arrived at the film's webpage, click on "company credits". Here, you'll see the distributor(s) listed. Once you have the name of the original distributor, try this list of distributor contacts.