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Copyright: Public Performance Rights (Film)

This is a guide to copyright information, best practices and resources for the Colby College Community.

Guide to Contacts for PPR

Public Performance Rights

Copyrighted films are not automatically licensed for public performance (showing a movie or film in a dorm, auditorium, or any other kind of public space).

Obtaining PPR means that the film's copyright holder receives compensation beyond the purchase price the library paid for the film.

Some films come with PPR and are so noted in the Library Catalog.

In most cases, the Colby Libraries are not responsible for obtaining PPR or paying for any performance fees for library-owned films; however, librarians are available to assist individuals and groups in identifying the copyright holder. 

What is a Public Performance?

Copyright law (USC 17§101) states a performance is public if it is in a public space or if it is in any place if "a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of a family and its acquaintances" is gathered there.
Colby classrooms, meeting rooms, auditoriums and dorm lounges are considered public spaces

The Teaching Exception:

Copyright law (USC 17§110) makes exceptions to public performances that take place in face-to-face teaching activities of a nonprofit educational institution; therefore, faculty and students can freely view a film that

  1. takes place in a Colby classroom and
  2. is used for instructional purposes in their class.

Do I Need to Obtain Performance Rights?

Yes ... No...

If the screening is open to the public, such as showing a film to the community for cultural enrichment

If the screening is in a public space where access is not restricted, such as an instructor showing a film to a class for curriculum-related purposes in a public or unrestricted-access location

If persons attending are outside the normal circle of family and acquaintances, such as showing a film to a club or organization, or showing a film for class but inviting others to attend

If privately viewing the film in your room with friends

If an instructor is showing the film to registered students in the course of teaching in the classroom

If the Colby College Libraries have purchased the video with public performance rights included.

If copyright permission is obtained.

 Adapted from Williams College "Public Performance of Video Recordings" and Columbia Unviersity "Showing Films and Other Media"

How to Obtain PPR

Some library films are purchased with performance rights and are so noted in the Library Catalog.

If performance rights are not included with the library purchase, and many titles do not offer this as an option, contact the copyright holder to obtain them. Individuals and organizations are responsible for obtaining performance rights for library-owned films.


1. Determine who the copyright holder is.

  • Search the Colby Library Catalog for publisher and distributor information.

  • Search WorldCat for newer formats of film. Copyright holder will likely be included.

2. Google the copyright holder, or use a directory like Switchboard to find current contact information.

3. Document your contacts and keep records of all related correspondence.

4. Additonally, there are Copyright Licensing Agents that make available PPR:

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