Copyright Policy - Showing movies on campus

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When you want to perform, display, or show a film, video, or TV program, whether it be as part of a course, at a group or club activity, at an organization event, or as a training exercise, you have to consider the rights of the those who own the copyright to the work you want to use. This consideration must be made regardless of who owns the video or where you obtained it. 

When you're using a film, video, or TV program in a classroom for teaching or educational purposes, such performance or display of the entire work may be allowed without permission under the face to face teaching exemption at 17 U.S.C. §110(1).

When showing a film in an online class, it may be considered fair use depending on how much of the film is being shown and for what purposes. If fair use does not apply, you will need a streaming license or view the film through a licensed streaming film provider.

In most other cases, especially when the film, video, or TV program is being shown as part of an event, you need permission--often in the form of a public performance rights (PPR) license--to perform or show the copyrighted work.

Copyright Compliance

Any use of copyrighted material without permission is copyright infringement. This applies to purchasing video content or whether it is obtaining the material through streaming options.  Copyright violations can impose penalties on the university, and are taken very seriously.

Public Performance

A public performance is a movie that is shown outside of someone’s home. Many public performances do not qualify for an educational exemption and do not apply outside the nonprofit, in-person, classroom teaching environment.   Streaming or showing a purchased video is licensed for your private use and is not licensed for exhibition to the public.  For instructional purposes, please visit Lehigh Media Services for more information.

Public Performance Rights

A license is required for all public performances.  Public Performance Rights (PPR) are the legal right to show a film or stream a video and are required if you are screening the copyrighted media to audiences for purposes that fall outside regular classroom student-rostered teaching instruction. The showing of a movie  will be considered to be a Public Performance: 

  • If the viewing or screening is open  to the public

  • If the viewing or screening is in a public space (auditorium, lounge, meeting room, etc.)

  • If the viewing or screening is advertised 

  • Whether or not admission is charged

Fees collected for public performance licensing compensate the copyright owners and the people who work on a film from start to finish. 

Purchasing a Public Performance Right

Purchasing a license to show a movie will be valid for a specific, designated time frame regardless of the number of people attending.  If you do need a "public performance" license, you can obtain one in one of the following ways:

  • By renting the movie directly from a distributor that is authorized to grant such licensing service companies to obtain permission.  

  • By contacting the copyright holder (generally the studio) directly.