Public screening rights must be purchased and secured before advertising any event related to a movie/film screenings. Failure to adhere to these guidelines (even if done so innocently and inadvertently) can result in fines from $750 to $30,000 per showing.
Media that is available for purchase, rented from commercial establishments (such as a brick-and-mortar store or RedBox) or online sources (including Netflix, Hulu, Youtube, Prime Video), or checked out of the library are for home viewing purposes only. Any time a student group or University department shows a movie in any context, the host must purchase the public screening rights (copyright) for each individual screening regardless of audience size or cost of participation (admission fee or free). Copyright purchase for film rights currently runs between $300-$950 per showing for popular titles from major movie distributors such as Swank Motion Pictures, Criterion Pictures, or Motion Picture Licensing Corporation. Independent films could cost less but must be negotiated with the holder of the copyright license.
Private vs. Public Screening
Private: An individual personally invites a few friends over to watch a movie or a TV show that’s no longer available on TV. They buy or rent a DVD or Blue Ray disc from the store or a digital video file from an online store and show the film or TV episode in their home that night. This is considered a private home screening.
Public: An individual or group who hosts a meeting/gathering, creates a public Facebook event, or hangs posters to invite others (residents from their residence hall, members of a department or student organization) to watch a movie. This is considered a public screening and infringes the copyright of the movie or TV show the individual is showing.
The ONLY exception to this is in the case of face-to-face classroom instruction by a faculty member for a registered academic course. The faculty member may show the film/movie outside the normal class period (at night for example), however, it is only for those students who are registered for the class. Acceptable attendance for films in which the copyright is not purchased only include students registered for the class, the instructor, and guest lecturer(s). The movie must also be shown in spaces that are designated for instruction; therefore, library screening rooms, residence hall or program house lounges, meeting rooms, or other function spaces do not qualify. A faculty member cannot show it for their class AND open it up to the rest of the campus – in that case public screening rights must be purchased.
How to Obtain a Public Screening License
Tisch Library has obtained public screening licenses on some titles available through their catalog or online resources with the following requirements. Questions on library resources can be directed to the Tufts Scholarly Communications Team.
“Most films for non-classroom group settings as long as the viewing is by authorized viewers and it is not for commercial benefit (i.e. no admission costs are charged and no profit is made from the screening)” (see terms here). If student organizations would like to show a Kanopy film outside of a registered class, they can reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org with the title of the film to confirm it is okay.
If the title you’re looking for is not available through the above resources, obtaining a public screening license is easy and usually requires no more than a few emails. Fees are determined by such factors as the number of times a movie is going to be shown, and how large the audience will be. While fees vary, they are generally inexpensive for smaller audiences. Most licensing fees are based on the specific film and screening details.
Some Netflix Original educational documentaries are available for one-time educational screenings and are denoted with a Grant of Permission for Educational Screenings. Educational screenings are permitted for approved titles only with the following terms:
The documentary may only be accessed via the Netflix service, by a Netflix account holder. They don’t sell DVDs, nor can we provide other ways for you to exhibit the film.
The screening must be non-profit and non-commercial. That means you can’t charge admission, fundraise, solicit donations, or accept advertising or commercial sponsorships in connection with the screening.
The documentary shall not be screened at any political event.
The use of Netflix’s logos in any promotion for the screening, or anything that indicates that the screening is “official” or endorsed by Netflix is prohibited.
To learn more about Netflix’s Grant of Permission for Education Screenings, visit their website.
Netflix Party is Google Chrome plugin that synchronizes video playback and adds group chat for viewers to access copyrighted content on their personal devices through their own personal Netflix account. Because each viewer is using their personal accounts for private screenings, even if part of a publicly advertised event, this is permitted for campus groups. However, Netflix Party streams may not be broadcast in public/shared spaces such as meeting rooms or Residential Hall common rooms where the content becomes available to others. To learn more about Netflix Party, visit their website.
Similar to Netflix Party, Scener is also a Google Chrome plugin that allows viewers to synchronize video playback but offers hosts to present (via video) to all viewers, in addition to a chat feature. Each viewer must access their own individual account to view the content, and is compatible with Netfllix, Disney+, HBO Max, Hulu, Prime Video, YouTube, Funimation, and more. To learn more about Scener, visit their website.
The Internet Archive’s Moving Image Archive is a great source of films that are believed to be in the public domain and thus can be publicly screened with no restrictions. The Library of Congress also has a Moving Image Research Center with early motion pictures.
The Federal Copyright Act (Title 17 of the U.S. Code) governs how copyrighted materials, such as movies, may be used. Neither the rental nor the purchase of a copy of a copyrighted work carries with it the right to publicly exhibit the work. No additional license is required to privately view a movie or other copyrighted work with a few friends and family or in certain narrowly defined face-to-face teaching activities. However, bars, restaurants, private clubs, prisons, lodges, factories, summer camps, public libraries, daycare facilities, parks and recreation departments, churches and non-classroom use at schools and universities are all examples of situations where a public screening license must be obtained. This legal requirement applies regardless of whether an admission fee is charged, whether the institution or organization is commercial or non-profit, or whether a federal or state agency is involved.
“Willful” infringement of these rules concerning public screenings for commercial or financial gain is a federal crime carrying a maximum sentence of up to five years in jail and/or a $250,000 fine. Even inadvertent infringement is subject to substantial civil damages.
Section 110 of the 1984 Copyright Act provides a specific exemption to the licensing of what is clearly a public screening and what is face-to-face teaching. To qualify for the exemption, the showing must occur in a face-to-face teaching situation at a non-profit educational institution and meet all the following six criteria:
Screenings of audiovisual works must be made from legitimate sources, such as pre-recorded videocassettes. Copies made from illegitimate sources or broadcasts are not allowed.
Screening must be part of a systematic course of instruction and not for entertainment, recreation, or cultural value. The instructor should be able to show how the use of the motion picture contributes to the overall course study and syllabus. The course does not have to be a credit course but must be one recognized by the institution and for which students must register.
The instructors or pupils must screen from the same location in which it is being screened; no broadcasting from outside sources (such as closed-circuit television) is allowed.
Screenings must be given in classrooms and other places devoted to instruction; library screening rooms, residence hall, student union lounges, rathskellers, and cafeterias do not qualify.
Screenings must be a part of the teaching activities at a non-profit teaching institution. Businesses that conduct educational seminars and certain technical schools do not qualify.
Attendance is limited to the instructors, pupils, and guest lecturers. Only students registered for the class may attend the screening. No fee specific to the screening may be charged.
For more information on Copyright Infringement, click here.