Whether on VHS, CD-ROM, DVD, or other formats, films are subject to copyright protection. Videotaping and digitizing such protected work is against the copyright law. Media producers or distributors manage not only the copyright, but also Public Performance Rights (PPR), the legal rights to show a film to audiences.
- There is no need to pay for the public performance license if a professor is showing a film to officially registered students in a face-to-face classroom as long as the content of the film is directly related to the course. This exemption is explained in the Copyright Law of the United States of America: § 110. Limitations on exclusive rights: Exemption of certain performances and displays
- Distributors of educational or documentary films typically sell their films with PPR (consequently, the hefty price tag!). In those cases, the library's catalog records for the particular films indicate “Includes Public Performance Rights” in the note field. For these films, paying for the public performance license is unnecessary.
- On the other hand, obtaining PPR is necessary for all other screenings of copyrighted films to audiences outside of the regular curriculum (e.g. extracurricular events, film series, and student club events). To obtain public performance rights, Swank Motion Pictures may be contacted.