Want to Show a Movie? Be Sure You Have the Rights!

492px-Manual_film_projectorMovies can be a great activity to interest other students in your club, introduce the public to an important issue, or simply relax on the weekend. Beware: They can also come with a steep price tag!

Ladd Library has a large collection of videos and DVDs which have been purchased for use in the classroom. Only some of these titles come with “Public Performance Rights,” the license that allows members of the Bates community to show the movie to a group of people outside of class.
Whether you are showing a film to your club, sending an invitation to watch a recent documentary out to “Announce,” or have just the perfect idea for a feel-good movie to bring the campus together, be sure you have the rights!
If the library was not able to purchase Public Performance Rights, they are probably only available on a per-showing basis. A license to show a film to 50 or fewer people without charging admission can cost as little as a simple acknowledgement to as much as $1000. Average for a documentary is about $300, but if you want to show a recent — or even 20 year old — box office hit, expect the price tag to be $500 or more.
If you don’t negotiate a license beforehand, you could be sued and/or held liable for whatever the copyright owner chooses to charge you. $500 would be cheap by comparison.
If getting a license sounds like too much work, there’s good news. If you ask well in advance of your showing, Chris Schiff, Music and Arts Librarian at Ladd Library, (cschiff@bates.edu) can help you find out if the library has purchased performance rights for a film, and if not, find out if rights are available and what the cost might be. Even better, if rights are available to libraries or institutions, the Bates College Library may be able to purchase them — and the film — for your showing!

Better be safe than sorry, $500 would buy a lot of popcorn!

For the Bates College official policy on showing movies on campus, click here.