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Waidner-Spahr Library

Copyright & Scholarly Communication: Films and Performance Rights

Copyright Issues

SEE also the Copyright Use FAQ item on "Group Showings", "Getting Permission", and "Copying Films"

Co-curricular Group Showings

Co-curricular (club) showings
To host a co-curricular group showing of a copyrighted film (which is most films), you need to have "performance rights" or permission from the copyright holder, even if you are not going to charge admission.  For some films the Library acquires, performance rights are already available.  Films on the Kanopy and Films on Demand streaming platforms may be used for on-campus showings by student groups and co-curricular programs for which no admission is charged.  Also, the Library purchases performance rights for many (though not all) individual documentaries in the DVD collection.  If a library DVD has performance rights, it will be noted in the full catalog record for the film.  If you need help determining if a film in the Library collection has performance rights, please email

Classroom showings
Group showings of a legally obtained film to students enrolled in a specific course are allowed as part of the face-to-face teaching exemption in copyright law.

Permission to Show a Film

If the Library copy of a film does not already have performance rights, you will need to get the permission of the copyright holder in order to hold a co-curricular or club group showing.  The copyright holder may charge you a fee for this.  If a fee is charged, it is the responsibility of the group organizing the showing to fund this.

To purchase performance rights for an individual showing of many films, contact Swank Motion Pictures ( Swank acts as a clearinghouse for purchase of performance rights for such showings, and has agreements with most major film studios. You can also contact the distributor directly to request permission, and this may be an option with some independently produced films.  If you do not get an explicit written or email response giving permission, you may not use the work outside of fair use or other exemptions permitted by copyright law.