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Audiovisual Services Public Performance Licensing

Copyright law mandates that movie producers/distributors receive payment for any and all screenings of their work. When a DVD is purchased it comes with a home use license. There is an educational exemption that also allows for screenings in a class with only viewers that are registered in the course for credit. Similarly, online subscription based services including Netflix and YouTube come with a home use license. Some Netflix Original educational documentaries are available for one-time educational screenings.

The screening of a movie is considered a public performance and the host of the event will be required to purchase a Public Performance License (PPL) if any of these situations apply:

  • The event will be open to the public or the campus community
  • The screening is listed on the Events Calendar
  • The event is advertised using email, posters or social media
  • Or if the event is sponsored by a student organization

It should be noted that not all movies have a distributor in the US, if they don't they are not allowed to be screened on campus as that is a violation of Copyright Law. 

Types of Licenses

One-time Use:

In this case a movie is rented for a one time public screening and then returned to the distributor.

Lifetime PPL:

Some companies sell their movies with lifetime Public Performance Licensing included in the purchase price. You can browse the Enoch Pratt Free Libraries page for a list of companies that offer Lifetime PPL.

Does our Library already have PPL for the movie I want to show?

Before purchasing a movie and PPL, check the Library Catalog for movies that have already been purchased by Hamilton College. Do not assume that every DVD in the collection has PPL though.

To check if the DVD you are interested in has Lifetime PPL:

  1. Visit the Library Homepage.
  2. Click the tab for Library Catalog.
  3. Type the name of the movie into the search bar.
  4. Select the correct record.
  5. On the left side navigation bar, under View, select MARC.
  6. If the movie has Lifetime PPL, it will be noted on line 590.
  7. If line 590 is not visible, the purchase of the movie did not include Lifetime PPL and you must purchase a one-time license.
    1. If the Library owns the DVD, you may be able to purchase the license without the distributor sending the DVD to avoid shipping costs.

How do I purchase a license?

To obtain a Public Performance License, first check the following company websites for the movie you wish to screen:

Once you find the correct distributor, you will need to contact them to get a price quote and make the purchase. The cost of the license must be paid by the department or organization sponsoring the event. Prices range anywhere from $50-$500 but are usually $150-$200.

Student Organizations ONLY:

PPL for sponsored events are paid for the Student Activities Office. Search Swank first. If they have the movie, email Noelle Niznik the title and she will handle getting the quote. If it is not distributed by Swank, you will need to obtain a quote yourself and send it to her to obtain funds.

For questions regarding this process please contact Abbi Tushingham by email or call x4120.


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Last updated: February 25, 2021

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