Public Performance Rights (PPR)

Copyrighted films (most films!) are not automatically licensed for public performance. This means they are not automatically licensed for viewing in a dorm, auditorium, or any other kind of public space. This includes Weitz Cinema which was created to show films. Films cannot be shown lawfully without licensing. The only legal exception is if an instructor shows a video/dvd in a classroom and that the activity is for teaching (aka: face-to-face teaching). 

So what does this mean for viewing movies in Weitz Cinema or at other spaces around campus? It means that Public Performance Rights (PPR) must be secured from the copyright holder. The SUMO representative works with the companies that hold copyright to arrange a viewing of the film. More information about PPR and copyright can be found below.

Frequently Asked Questions:

How can I stay updated on what’s happening with SUMO? 

Be sure to check campus announcements each week as well as this website.

How can I get funding for a co-sponsored screening with SUMO?

Fill out the form on our Partnership with Student Organizations tab. And if you have any questions, feel free to contact us.

How are the movies picked every term? 

The student SUMO representative goes through lists of what movies are available for the coming term and decides on a schedule based on cost, genre, representation, when the rights are released, etc.. Additionally, suggestions are considered!

Can I contribute in helping pick movies? 

Yes! Fill out the form on the Suggest a Movie tab.

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Copyright:

If I’m not charging admission to watch the movie, do I still need to purchase the licensing rights?

Yes. A license is required for all public performances regardless of whether admission is charged.

If I buy a movie at Target, rent it from the library, stream it on Prime, or already own the film, does that count as “purchasing the rights”?

No. Stores and libraries sell and rent movies for “home use only” and cannot provide legal permission for use outside the home or viewers beyond those in your normal living arrangement. You can only obtain licensing directly from a licensor not from a third party.

What if I’m only showing the film to a small group of friends or classmates? Do I still need a license?

If the movie is being shown outside your home, a license needs to be obtained regardless of the number of people attending the screening. If you are showing a movie at your home (your dorm, townhouse, or apartment) then viewers beyond those in your normal living arrangement are “the public” and rules for viewing movies outside of the home should be followed.

What if I want to show an old movie from the ‘30s or ’40s? Do I still need a license?

Yes. Copyright pertains to all movies regardless of the year it was produced, unless it falls in the “public domain” and is free for viewing. Wikipedia provides a list of movies in this category. Ranker also lists some of the best movies that are in the public domain.

What is considered public space on our campus?

Anything outside of your personal dorm room or apartment is considered public space (ie: Classrooms, the Weitz Cinema, meeting/conference rooms, the library, recreational facilities, common areas of apartments/dormitories/and other residential communities, outdoor space, cafeterias, etc.)

My organization is showing the film for educational purposes. Do I still need a license?

You will need to purchase the license unless your movie is being shown as part of a class and is relevant to the teaching content, the movie is supervised by the course instructor, and the movie is attended ONLY by students enrolled in a REGISTERED class at Carleton. Showing a movie outside of a classroom and holding an education discussion following the film is not part of the face-to-face teaching exemption.

What am I paying for when I purchase the rights to a movie?

The license fees compensate the copyright owners and the men and women who work on the film’s production. These royalties are the way publishers, authors, composers, musicians, inventors, computer programmers and movie producers are paid for their work. You don’t want to work for free and neither do they!

Do documentaries and independent films fall under the same rules?

These types of movies are usually explored on a case by case basis. Sometimes permission can be obtained from the filmmaker to show the film without purchasing the rights. A good example of this at Carleton is the public showing of Reel Rock each year through CANOE. The filmmaker allows Carleton to show the year’s newest film for free.

Federal Copyright Law

(Copyright Laws with highlights italicized.)

The Federal Copyright Act (Title 17, United States code, Public Law 94-553, 90 Stat. 2541) governs how copyrighted materials, such as movies, may be utilized publicly. Neither the rental nor the purchase or lending of a videocassette or DVD carries with it the right to exhibit such a movie publicly outside the home, unless the site where the video is used is properly licensed for copyright compliant exhibition.

This legal copyright compliance requirement applies to parks and recreation departments, colleges, universities, public schools, day care facilities, summer camps, churches, private clubs, prisons, lodges, businesses, etc. regardless of whether admission is charged, whether the institution is commercial or non-profit or whether a federal, state or local agency is involved.

The movie studios who own copyrights, and their agents, are the only parties who are authorized to license sites such as parks and recreation departments, businesses, museums, etc. No other group or person has the right to exhibit or license exhibitions of copyrighted movies.

Furthermore, copyrighted movies borrowed from other sources such as public libraries, colleges, personal collections, etc. cannot be used legally for showing in colleges or universities or in any other site which is not properly licensed.

Face-to-Face Teaching Exemption:

Under the “education exemption,” copyrighted movies may be exhibited in a college without a license only if the movie exhibition is:

  1. An integral part of a class session and is of material assistance to the teaching content.
  2. Supervised by a teacher in a classroom.
  3. Attended ONLY by students enrolled in a REGISTERED class of an accredited nonprofit educational institution.
  4. Presented using a lawfully made movie that has been legally produced and obtained through rental or purchase.

If you have any further questions about copyright and licensing feel free to contact SUMO.

Thank you to the Rochester Institute of Technology for their insight on licensing information.