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Streaming Media & Video

Showing Films on Campus: A Public Performance Rights Primer

What are Public Performance Rights (PPR)? Copyrighted films (and most of them are) are not automatically licensed for public performance (this means showing a movie/film in a dorm, auditorium, or any other kind of public space). The only legal exception to this rule is if an instructor shows a video to enrolled students only in a traditional (i.e., face-to-face) classroom setting (more detail here). 

Does the Spalding Library purchase films with Public Performance Rights? Due to the extra cost, Spalding University Library usually does not purchase films with PPR. However, some documentary publishers and distributors (e.g., Films for the Humanities, Bullfrog) do include PPR in the purchase price so that these films may be screened to the public so long as the screening is free. These videos are the exception rather than the rule. Major studios, such as Sony and Columbia, do not sell DVDs with PPR. 

Do I need PPR? Sometimes it can be confusing to understand when you need to purchase PPR. In general, any time a film is "display[ed] 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," (Title 17, U.S. Code) you will need to secure PPR rights.

Our event is free, can't we just show the video? No, unless you are showing a film that already has PPR (see Films with Public Performance Rights below). Any time you are holding a public event where anyone can come, it is considered a public performance and you will need PPR. Student clubs, student-run film festivals and similar events are all public performances.

Purchasing Public Performance Rights

How do I purchase Public Performance Rights? Here is a partial list of organizations that hold PPR for many films. Swank is a great place to start.

When inquiring about Public Performance Rights, have the following information on hand:

  • Your name and the name of your organization
  • Where and to whom you will show the film
  • How your organization will pay for the rights to show the movie
  • Contact information for your organization
  • Whether or not you need a copy of the film

Copyright & Streaming Media

Consider whether streaming media in your course is fair use.  These tools can help with a fair use analysis.  Please note they do not provide legal advice:

We encourage you to follow these practices, which will strengthen your stance under both Fair Use:

  • Always put the media in your password-protected Canvas site that is only accessible by students enrolled in your course.
  • Use videos that directly relate to your curricula.
  • Use the minimum amounts of films necessary to meet your pedagogical objectives.
  • Transform the video clips into teaching tools.  For example, include critical analysis or annotations with the clips you show.
  • Put the clips in your Canvas site only during the days students need to access them for your class.
  • Include notice that the film is protected by copyright.  For example, the © symbol and any of the information following it, such as the author's and publisher's names.
  • Use media that was lawfully acquired.  

Law: Fair use (17 USC § 107) is a flexible doctrine of law that allows us to use copyright protected works for certain purposes. 

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or DMCA, (17 USC § 1201) is a highly technical law that prohibits circumventing technological protection measures of copyright-protected works---even if a user wishes to use the work legally.  Every three years the US Copyright Office creates exceptions to this restriction.  Current exceptions were enacted in 2015 and will expire in 2018. They are explained in this blog and chart from Ohio State University. 

Copyright law is complex.  Stream unlicensed video for your class as a last resort.