Public Performance Rights


Are you planning to show a film at a film festival, educational program, or other event? If so, you may need to obtain public performance rights (PPR), which is a license that allows a film to be shown publicly. Almost all films are protected by copyright, and § 106(5) of the Copyright Law of the United States grants to copyright owners the exclusive right to perform the copyrighted work publicly. The statutory definition of a public performance is one "at a place open to the public or at any place where a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of a family and its social acquaintances is gathered." (§ 101) There is a specific exception that allows viewing films as part of classroom teaching, so PPR are not required if the "performance or display [is] in the course of face-to-face teaching activities of a nonprofit educational institution, in a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction" as long as the copy being shown was lawfully made. (§ 110(1))

When do I need Public Performance Rights?

The following are allowed for any film or television program in the Library's DVD or streaming collections without obtaining PPR:

  • individual viewing
  • home viewing with family and friends
  • classroom viewing
  • viewing in small groups, such as in a group study room

PPR are required to show copyrighted works in situations other than those listed above, including:

  • film festivals
  • meetings, programs, and events on campus
  • movie nights sponsored by student or other groups

If, however, you are showing limited portions of a film or television show, even if it is in a public setting, then fair use might apply. To determine whether a particular use is a fair use, four factors must be analyzed (purpose and character of the use, nature of the copyrighted work, amount used and effect on the potential market value for the work). Read more about fair use.

Do the library's films have public performance rights?

A small number of the films in the library's DVD collection have PPR; most do not. The DVDs with PPR are generally either documentaries or educational films. The library's feature films do not have PPR. If you have a question about PPR for a film on DVD, contact

Many of the films in the library's streaming collections have PPR. If you have a question about PPR for a film in a streaming service, contact

Netflix films are subject to their standard terms of use: "The Netflix service and any content viewed through our service are for your personal and non-commercial use only.... You agree not to use the service for public performances." Their only exception to this policy is for a few selected documentaries that are available for educational screenings. The library does not have a subscription to Netflix, so you need to use a personal account. 

Are there any restrictions on my screening if I have public performance rights?

The rights granted when a DVD is purchased with PPR vary among distributors, and the screening may be restricted in one of more of the following ways:

  • educational use only
  • on campus use only
  • audience size is limited (e.g., 50 or 100 viewers)
  • GU community only
  • no admission fee
  • no advertising

How can I get public performance rights for a screening on campus?

Individuals and organizations are responsible for obtaining performance rights for all publicly screened media. Some companies to contact to secure PPR:

For other films, you may need to contact the producer or distributor directly. Finding the rights holders and securing PPR for foreign films, independent films, and older films may be difficult or impossible.

More information about PPR

If you have questions about our licenses with streaming providers, contact the Electronic Resources & Serials Unit.

For other questions about PPR, please send an email to