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Public Performance Licenses - Copyright Compliance

In order to maintain compliance with Federal copyright law our district renews on a yearly basis a "Public Performance License." This license permits the exhibition of movies outside of the classroom environment (i.e., Family Movie Night, Matinee and a Meal, assemblies, etc.) The information below is from Movie Licensing USA Inc., the licensing company that sells these licenses. In order to ensure that staff are fully aware of what copyright law is with regards to movies to make sure we stay within the law.

If you have any questions, please contact the Help at at X4590 or Gary Lambert at extension 4599.



The following studios are represented with the district's Public Performance License:  Walt Disney Pictures, Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros., Sony Pictures, NBC/Universal Pictures, New Line Cinema, Lionsgate Films, MGM, Touchstone Pictures, Hollywood Pictures, Columbia Pictures, TriStar Pictures, Summit Entertainment, Focus Features, Miramax, Warner Independent Pictures, Fine Line Features, United Artists, DreamWorks Animation, Paramount Vantage and Screen Gems. To confirm whether or not a title is covered under this license, please search for the title on this website: call us at 1-877-321-1300.




Frequently Asked Questions About Movie Copyright Compliance in Non-Classroom Activities in Public Schools


What constitutes "public performance" of an entertainment movie?
Any exhibition of an entertainment movie outside the privacy of a  home setting is considered a public performance.

We have been using movies for non-teaching activities for years. Why haven't we heard of this before?
Use of someone else's copyrighted materials in the U.S. has been a copyright law violation since 1970. The movie studios have had a compliance royalty procedure in place, handling details direct, studio by studio for many years. You might not have been aware of it. Most of the major studios have made copyright compliance simpler and less expensive for schools by appointing Movie Licensing USA as their sole agent to assist in their copyright enforcement program.

With our school's public performance license, can we legally charge admission to a function?
You cannot charge admission to any event where a movie is being shown, but donations may be accepted. Said another way, you can accept donations towards a fundraiser, or charity, but you cannot require a fee to be admitted to that event. Explicitly charging or turning away someone who does not "donate" is a violation of the law and is therefore not permitted.

With our school's public performance license, can we advertise an event to the general public?
Under copyright law, even with a public performance license you cannot advertise an event to the general public in newspapers, radio, television, or any other paid medium. However, you are allowed to mention an event in a school's newsletter, web page, or letter home to parents.

Does this public performance license cover all films from from all movie studios?
Currently the only major motion picture picture studio that is not covered is 20th Century Fox. The following link has a complete list of authorized movie studios: If you wish to show a movie whose studio does not appear on this list, you must secure public performance permission yourself.

If I borrow movies from a public library can I use them legally for entertainment in a school?
Absolutely not. A public library cannot pass on copyright compliance to anyone, nor can anyone else except Movie Licensing USA or the studios themselves do so. If you borrow movies from a public library for student entertainment, such as After School programs in an  unlicensed school, you are not only violating copyright law but you are also involving both parties in non-compliancy.

I thought schools were exempt from needing a license to legally use copyrighted movies.
Under the "Educational Exemption," copyrighted entertainment movies may be shown in a school without copyright permission only if the moving showing:

  • is supervised by the teacher
  • takes place in a classroom attended only by students enrolled in the class
  • is an essential element of the current educational curriculum
  • uses a movie that has been legally made and obtained


For specific requirements, please reference The Copyright Act of 1976, Public Law No. 94-553,90 stat 2541: Title 17; Section 110(i), or consult your copyright attorney.

What if a video store says it is okay to publicly exhibit rented or purchased entertainment movies?
These stores rent or sell entertainment movies for "Home Use Only" and cannot provide legal permission for use outside the home. Ownership of the movies and the right to use them publicly are two separate issues. The copyright holder retains exclusive public performance rights. You can, for instance, buy a copyrighted movie, but you do not have the right to use it for public performances in non-teaching activities without permission.

What if an outside organization such as an After School Program or Summer Camp wants to show an entertainment movie in our facility?
If any outside organization use your school facility and want to show movies, it is only legally permitted if the school itself has a Public Performance Site License from Movie Licensing USA. Schools without such a license will be held liable if an outside organization involves them in copyright infringement by permitting movies to be used in their facility.

We are buying entertainment movies from a catalog which says their movies are licensed to show in a school, public library, etc. Is this accurate?
Absolutely not. No vendor selling entertainment videos or DVD movies has any such rights whatsoever to give to you. If you use any movies in school activities produced by any of the studios our license covers, you are violating the movie's copyright unless your school has a current Public Performance Site License from Movie Licensing USA or the showing qualifies under the "Educational exemption".

Where can I acquire entertainment movies under our public performance license?
Once licensed, you can exhibit any movies copyrighted by the studios we represent as long as they are secured from a legal source such as a video rental store, your school library or your personal collection.

Are there limitations to this Public Performance Site License?
Yes. This license is for K-12 Schools only. This license does not permit entertainment movies to be used when an admission fee is charged, other than to cover costs, and does not permit advertisement of the movies to the general public. In addition, the movies my not be altered, duplicated, digitized or transmitted electronically in any form without the specific permission from the copyright owner. Closed-circuit transmission is permitted only within the licensed school.


What the Law Says About Copyright?


What the law says the Federal Copyright Act (The Copyright Act of 1976, public Law 94-553,90 stat. 2541: Title 17; Section 110(i) governs how copyrighted materials, such as movies, may be utilized publicly. Neither the rental nor the purchase or lending of a videocassette or DVD carries with it the right to exhibit such a movie publicly outside the home, unless the site where the video is used is properly licensed for public exhibition.
This legal copyright compliance requirement applies to public schools, public libraries, daycare facilities, parks recreation departments, summer camps, churches, private clubs, prisons, lodges, businesses, etc.
This legal requirement applies:

  • Regardless of whether an admission fee is charged
  • Whether the institution or organization is commercial or non-profit
  • Whether a federal, state or local agency is involved


Educational Exemption

The Educational Exemption, also called the "face-to-face teaching exemption," is a precise activity which allows the legal use of movies in certain types of teaching. In order for a movie to be considered an "Educational Exemption," all criteria must be met:

  • A teacher or instructor is present.
  • The showing takes place in a classroom setting with only the enrolled students attending.
  • The movie is used as an essential part of the core, current curriculum being taught. (The instructor should be able to show how the use of the motion pictures contributes to the overall course study and syllabus.)
  • The entertainment movie being used is a legitimate copy, not taped from a legitimate copy or taped from TV.


If you are uncertain about your responsibilities under copyright law, consult your school legal copyright representative.


Why is Copyright Infringement a Concern?

The concept of "Public Performance" is central to copyright and is the main issue of protection for intellectual property. Most of the persons participating in movie productions depend upon royalties for a major portion of their payment for work performed. If an author, computer programmer, musician or movie producer loses the revenue from royalties for his or her work, and thus has little chance of recouping the enormous investment in time, research, and development of their creations, they must turn to the U.S. Copyright Law for assistance. Consequently, if their intellectual creations are being used by others who are not paying compensation (royalty) for the use, copyright law may need to be enforced.

Copyright Infringers Can be Prosecuted - Consult your Legal Copyright Advisor/Attorney The Motion Picture Association of American and its member companies are dedicated to stopping film and video piracy in all its forms, including unauthorized public performances, illegal downloading, etc. The motion picture companies can go to court to ensure their copyrights are not violated. To avoid embarrassing publicity and fines, it is important to comply with U.S. Copyright Law when using movies publicly. If you are uncertain about your responsibilities under copyright law, consult your legal copyright compliance advisor or attorney.