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January 23 at 11:00am

When Do They Need A License To Screen A Film?

By Ted Hope

The other week I tweeted:

Any time a film is shown outside a person’s personal home, the screening is considered “public”& u must license the rights.

I expected not much of a response, but it got some retweets & favs.  I fell into this subject courtesy of the Art House Convergence google group (always a fountain of information!).  My tweet was abbreviated from IFC’s contractual license language:

Any time a film is shown outside a person’s personal home, the screening is considered “public”. It does not matter if admission is charged or if the entity screening the film is a non-profit organization, school, or library. If the film is being shown outside the home, it is considered “public” and it is necessary to license the rights for such a showing.

However, this does not seem to be the whole picture.  The AHC conversation continued and it was sourced that Title 17 of USC (United States Code), section 110, states:

§ 110 . Limitations on exclusive rights: Exemption of certain performances and displays

Notwithstanding the provisions of section 106, the following are not infringements of copyright:

(1) 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, unless, in the case of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, the performance, or the display of individual images, is given by means of a copy that was not lawfully made under this title, and that the person responsible for the performance knew or had reason to believe was not lawfully made;

If anyone would like to read, the entirety of copyright law (it’s riveting stuff), you can here:


 (courtesy of Dr. Eric Faden, Associate Professor of English and Film/Media Studies, Bucknell University).
So if you want to show a film in a pub, get a license.  But if you are a not-for-profit educational institution and providing face-to-face instruction, you are in the clear.

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One Comment

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  1. Lisa Kirazian / Jan 23 at 11:00am

    Hi Ted. Do you have a sample licensing agreement for a film to be shown? Or can you refer me to a site? I’ve found many other film related contracts but not that one. Thanks.

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