How to Get Permission to Show a Movie Outside Class

This guide aims to give information about showing movies outside of class.

Definition of "Perform" and "Public Performance"

According to the University Policy 7-014: Copyright Policy: Performance or Display of Copyrighted Works,

"Perform means to recite, present, render, play, dance, or act, either directly or by means of motion pictures or other mechanical or electronic devise or process"


"Public performance or display is a performance, presentation, or display at a place open to the public, or at any place where a substantial number of persons outside of the normal circle of a family and its social acquaintances is gathered. Performances or displays at "semi-public" places such as clubs, lodges, factories, summer camps and schools are considered public in nature."

Film Screenings as Events

In a majority of cases, film screenings will be part of some special event (such as a film festival) or the event itself. According to the Scheduling Division of the Registrar's Office, you must have "written permission from the producer of the film, the film must be in the public domain, or the group must have purchased the rights to show the film."

You must have the above permission or rights when submitting the Special Event Application and Checklist, at a minimum of one week before the event.

Viewing at the Library

According to James S. Heller, et al. in The Librarian's Copyright Companion 2nd Edition, "there are limits to how many people can watch a film without it being a public performance, but there is no magic number. We feel very comfortable with the number four, and quite comfortable with eight. (p. 161)" This applies when viewing a film in a study room in the library.

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