Copyright: Public Performance Rights

Basic copyright information and guidance

Do I Need To Obtain Performance Rights?



if the screening is open to the public, such as showing a foreign-language film to the community for cultural enrichment

if privately viewing the film in your room with friends

if the screening is in a public space where access is not restricted, such as an instructor showing a film to a class for curriculum-related purposes in a public or unrestricted-access location

if an instructor is showing the film to officially registered students in a classroom, where content of film directly relates to course*

if persons attending are outside the normal circle of family and acquaintances, such as showing a film to a club or organization, or showing a film for class but inviting others to attend

if the film is part of Academic Video Online, is accessed through the Williams network, and viewing is for the Williams community, and free of charge (no admission fee)

*Section 110(1) of the Copyright Law, Title 17, U.S. Code ( provides an exemption for certain educational uses of videorecordings. Specifically, it allows for "performance or display of a work by instructors or pupils in the course of face-to-face teaching activities of a nonprofit educational institution, in a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction."

How Do I Obtain Performance Rights?

Some library films are purchased with performance rights. Find out if the library has performance rights to the film you want to show by contacting a librarian.

If we don't have performance rights, you must contact the copyright holder to obtain them. Individuals and organizations are responsible for obtaining performance rights for library-owned films.

Copyright Licensing Agents


  • 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.
  • Swank Motion Pictures, Inc., founded in 1937, is the major non-theatrical movie distributor and public performance licensing agent in venues where feature movies are shown publicly.
  • Movie Licensing US.  A division of Swank Motion Pictures. 
  • Criterion Pictures USA is one of the largest non-theatrical providers of feature films in North America. In the United States, Criterion has exclusive relationships with some of Hollywood's largest film Studios, such as Paramount Pictures (select titles only), 20th Century Fox, Fox SearchLight, DreamWorks Animation, Troma Films, New Concorde, among others.


  • Broadcast Music, Inc represents over 350,000 creators of music, the songwriters, composers and publishers of more than 6.5 million musical works
  • American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) licenses the right to perform songs and musical works created and owned by the songwriters, composers, lyricists and music publishers who are ASCAP members and also those members of foreign performing rights organizations who are represented by ASCAP in the United States.

Still have questions? Ask A Librarian.

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