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Fair Use and Copyright in the Classroom: Public Performance Rights


The content below has been adapted from Georgetown University's page with permission. It has been modified to reflect Marymount library subscriptions and contacts.

Public Performance Rights


Are you planning to show a film at a film festival, educational program, or other event? If so, you may need to obtain public performance rights (PPR), which is a license that allows a film to be shown publicly. Almost all films are protected by copyright, and § 106(5) of the Copyright Act grants to copyright owners the exclusive right to perform the copyrighted work publicly. The statutory definition of a public performance is one "at a place open to the public or at any place where a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of a family and its social acquaintances is gathered." (§ 101) The Copyright Act contains a specific exception that allowing allows viewing films as part of classroom teaching, so PPR are not required if the "performance or display [is] in the course of face-to-face teaching activities of a nonprofit educational institution, in a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction" as long as the copy being shown was lawfully made. (§ 110)

When do I need Public Performance Rights?

The following are allowed for any film or television program in the Library's DVD or streaming collections without obtaining PPR:

  • individual viewing
  • home viewing with family and friends
  • classroom viewing
  • viewing in small groups, such as in a group study room

PPR are required to show copyrighted works in situations other than those listed above, including:

  • film festivals
  • meetings, programs, and events on campus
  • movie nights sponsored by student or other groups

If, however, you are showing limited portions of a film or television show, even if it is a public setting, then fair use might apply. To determine whether a particular use is a fair use, four factors must be analyzed (purpose and character of the use, nature of the copyrighted work, amount used and effect on the potential market value for the work). Read more about fair use here.

Do the library's films have public performance rights?

Some of the films in the library's DVD collection have PPR; most do not. The DVDs with PPR are generally either documentaries or educational films. The library's feature films do not have PPR. For DVDs purchased since fall 2019, you will see a note in the catalog record if the DVD was purchased with PPR. For DVDs acquired before that date, please contact your library liaison or to determine if the DVD has public performance rights.

Many of the films in the library's streaming collections also have PPR. For example:

  • Films on Demand - these films can be shown to Marymount's faculty, students and staff "for classroom teaching, research, presentations, and educational non-commercial multimedia projects for use in educational institutions, provided no admission or other fees are charged for public viewing."
  • Kanopy - these films may be exhibited to "faculty, staff, students, affiliated researchers, visiting scholars, and authorized attendees at educational classes hosted by Marymount."

Netflix has recently made selected films available for educational screenings. As of January 2017, there were only seven, but this number might increase over time. Click here to learn more about educational screenings of Netflix documentaries. The library does not have a subscription to Netflix, so you need to use a personal account. All other Netflix films are subject to their standard terms of useThe Netflix service and any content viewed through our service are for your personal and non-commercial use only.... You agree not to use the service for public performances.

Are there any restrictions on my screening if I have public performance rights?

The rights granted when a DVD is purchased with PPR vary among distributors, and the screening may be restricted in one of more of the following ways:

  • educational use only
  • on campus use only
  • audience size is limited (e.g., 50 or 100 viewers)
  • Marymount community only
  • no admission fee
  • no advertising

How can I get public performance rights for a screening on campus?

Individuals and organizations are responsible for obtaining performance rights for all publicly screened media. Some companies to contact to secure PPR:

For other films, you may need to contact the producer or distributor directly.  Finding the rights holders and securing PPR for foreign films, independent films, and older films may be difficult or impossible.

More information about PPR

If you have questions about our licenses with streaming providers, please send an email to

For other questions about PPR, please contact your library liaison or

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