Reserves and Copyright

Public Performance Rights

Public performance rights are the legal rights  required to show media to an audience.   These rights are not usually included when a library or individual purchases a DVD or video.  Here's what you need to know to legally show films to an audience. 

Public performance rights are needed:

  • when presenting media outside the classroom (for example, to a student organization)
  • when presenting media in a public location that is open to the public (for example, showing a film to your class in the commons)
  • when presenting media to a public audience (for example, a film series, or at a public lecture)

Public performance rights are not needed:

  • when viewing media at home in the company of family and friends
  • when presenting media that is relevant to course content in a face to face classroom to officially registered students

How to Find Out if a Library DVD has Public Peformance Rights

Some documentary and educational videos provide public performance rights at the moment of purchase.   Though each license will vary, in general, showing the film publicly is possible when conditions listed in the license are met.   The license is available from the library catalog.  Ask the library director if you have any questions.

  1. Search for the title in the library catalog. 
  2. Select the "details" tab under the item.
  3. To the right, look for "links" and find a link to the license agreement.

License agreement link in catalog record

These kinds of restrictions may be included in the license:

  • there can be no admission admission charge
  • the audience must consist of less than 50 persons
  • there can be no public advertising of the screening

How to Obtain Public Performance Rights

If the film you want to show does not already have public performance rights, you can try to purchase them from the copyright holder, the distributor, or from a rights-management organization.   The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction provides a list of contacts that you can use to find out more information about obtaining these rights.  

More information about public performance rights, licensing issues, and copyright is available at the following sites.