Showing Movies on Campus
This information is intended for individuals or organizations wishing to show a film publicly (outside the home to more than family and friends.) See also Emory's Films & Copyright guide.
Why does my organization need to get permission to show this film?
Copyright infringement is a serious offense under the law and is also the equivalent of stealing from a film distributor. While it is important to abide by the law, it is also important that your organization represents itself well by doing the right thing—getting permission to show the film. Oxford College counts on you and your organization to behave in a manner consistent with University policies as well as state, local, and federal law.
When do you need permission, and when don’t you need permission?
- Any time you show a film in any public University space (this is any classroom, lounge, or common area on campus). These spaces are considered “public” spaces and showing the movie in these areas is the equivalent to showing them in a theater.
- If you have used publicity to invite your audience to the showing (this includes but is not limited to mass e-mails, letters, flyers, and web postings). Because movie rentals are intended for private use, renting them does not provide you with the permission you need to have a public showing in which an audience is invited.
- If you are charging admission for the showing or an event in conjunction with the showing (charging for a lecture that will accompany the film, for example). This would be true even if you showed the film at your house or at another venue off campus.
- You need permission even if the film showing is for educational purposes such as an extracurricular lecture. If the distributor has special permission for films shown for educational purposes they will still need to give you the written confirmation you need to protect your event under the law. You will need to obtain a letter from a professor/faculty advisor on Emory letterhead stating that the movie is for educational purposes and that a discussion about the film will follow. You should get this letter before contacting the distributor.
- You do not necessarily need permission if you are showing brief parts of a film. There are not set rules for what “brief” means in this context; but, general rules are: these snippets are OK when the event is free, when the snippet does not reveal key plot items to the film, when the length of the showing is not substantial, and when it doesn’t affect people’s likelihood of seeing the entire film.
- You do not need permission if you are showing the film in class as part of a course syllabus. If you are screening a film to be studied in class as part of your syllabus you do not need to acquire rights. However, this only applies to in-person screenings that are limited only to the students enrolled in your class. If you are interested in having a film available digitally through Course Reserves, please contact the Oxford College Library Reserves Team.
- The Emory Libraries may already have permission to show the film. The Libraries purchase public performance rights in advance with some films. If the film you would like to show is one for which the library already has purchased rights, you can show the film without obtaining additional permission. To determine whether the library has public performance rights for a film, please contact the Oxford College Library.
How can I get permission?
Getting permission to screen a film is fairly simple in most cases. For “mainstream” movies, the Oxford College Library recommends you check with these distributors:
They have a large catalog with a variety of films, both old and new. They respond quickly to inquiries, and can easily be reached by either email or phone. Please contact the Oxford College Library if you would like for us to do this for you.
If neither Swank nor Criterion distributes rights for the film you are interested in screening, you can try to track down the distributor by:
- Conduct a web search – a good place to start is IMDb, the Internet Movie Database. Simply go to the site, search for your film, and choose the correct film out of the results. Once you choose your film, go to the “Company Credits” section and click “See More.” The United States distributors will be indicated in the “Distributors” section.
- Ask a librarian - The staff at the Oxford College Library is happy to help you find a US distributor for a film. Please contact email@example.com for assistance.
What is a film distributor going to ask me?
- Your name and the name of the organization with whom you are working
- Where the screening will be hosted
- How many people you expect to attend the screening
- Whether or not you are charging admission
- How you advertised the screening
- If there is a charge, how your organization will pay for the rights to show the movie
- Contact information for your organization
- Whether or not you need them to send you a copy of the film
Is this going to cost money?
The cost for rights to screen a film vary depending on a number of factors: how many people will be in attendance, whether you’re charging admission, and the nature of the film itself. It’s not uncommon for the rights to be expensive. It’s best to plan ahead and contact the distributor early, explain in what context the film will be shown, and see what they can do for you.
Can I screen a movie from Netflix?