Copyright/Public Performance Rights to Show Films at Student Org or Department Events


Do I need to get copyright/ public performance rights to show films for my student org or department event?

The quick answer is “yes.” 

Public showings of copyrighted films require obtaining “public performance rights” (PPR) permission. Copyright law (USC 17§101) states a “performance” (i.e. viewing) is public if it is in a public space or if it is in any place if "a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of a family and its acquaintances" is gathered there. 

Not subject to public performance rights:

  • viewed in your room or home with friends

Allowed under the copyright law teaching exception:

  • viewed in a classroom by registered students of the course

If you secure PPR, the MacDaily will be able to announce your film event.

What to do:

  • Contact the library with the film title and date of event to see if the library owns a public performance rights copy, already. Library staff can also get a quote of the cost of PPR.

The legal answer is “it depends.” 

Whether a particular instance is considered “public” is decided on a case by case basis, ultimately in court. While there are no “copyright police,” as an institution and as a community of learners, we can pursue due diligence in securing the public performance rights which provides additional compensation to the copyright holder of the creative work–beyond a one time purchase or personal stream viewing. Guide: Copyright at Macalester College

But what about:

Netflix and other streaming services…have detailed license agreements that typically limit viewing to personal, non-public viewing. These terms of service (which you agree to when you sign up) take precedence over any potential copyright exceptions such as fair use. Most streaming services are not permitted to be used in public viewings. Consult the service’s terms of use for more information. 

HBO Max/Xfinity campus subscription…is licensed for use for students living on campus under a residential contract. Use of this streaming service should not be relied upon for student org or departmental events.



  • Last Updated Mar 27, 2024
  • Views 213
  • Answered By Madisen Egan

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