Public Performance of Movies and Other Media

Have you wanted to show a movie to your friends on campus?  Have you thought about hosting a film festival or viewing club?  If you are showing a film to your class, do you also want to invite others who are not in the class?

I want to be sure you are aware of the copyright restrictions on public performance of videos and movies. The copyright law not only grants copyright owners the authority to determine when copies can be made, it also grants them the right to determine how and when works can be performed in public. The materials we have in the library and materials that you borrow from other libraries or purchase – either in stores or online – are usually licensed for personal use only. If you plan a public performance, you are expected to obtain permission from the copyright owners. The copyright law provides broad exceptions to use these video recordings in classroom settings, but classroom provisions are typically not interpreted to include performances to which the community or students not enrolled in the class are invited.

  • If you are showing a film or video on campus (except when showing it to the students enrolled in your class) you are expected to obtain performance rights for the work. If you are showing movies publicly without permission of the distributor, you may be violating the copyright owner’s public performance rights – whether or not you charge an admittance fee.
  • When it can, the library obtains performance rights for films in its collections, and notes this in the online catalog record. This kind of long-term license is often not available, especially for feature films, so performance rights must be obtained for each viewing.
  • Do not use film titles, clips, or descriptions in advertising, invitations, or hype reels. The title and excerpts have the same copyright protection as the complete film.
  •  If you show a film in public or use copyrighted material without permission, your activity may not be anonymous. Copyright owners or their agents may receive or review the notices you send out regarding your activities.
  • The potential risks are very large. You may receive a notice from the copyright owner along with an invoice for performance fees (which could be $500 to $1,500 or more), or you could be sued for copyright infringement.
  • Under certain provisions of the copyright law, library staff are prohibited from loaning materials if they understand that the materials may be used in a manner that violates copyright law, including a public showing without appropriate permission.
  • You are personally and individually responsible for your compliance with copyright law. The college cannot take responsibility for your behavior, defend you against a claim by a copyright owner, nor pay any fines or penalties that may result. If college officials receive a complaint about your activity we are required to take action.

The complete copyright policy of the college on the Web at:

The site includes links to the law and to additional information related to fair use. Members of the Research Services staff in Ladd Library can help you learn where to obtain performance rights. For further questions or clarification, contact Music and Arts Librarian Chris Schiff at

Bates College Public Performance of Movies and Other Media, Updated: October 12, 2023