An individual must purchase the rights (license) from a movie company such as Swank Motion Pictures or Criterion Pictures to obtain permission to show a movie in any other situation than what is covered under the 1984 Copyright Act as outlined below.
What the Law Says
The Federal Copyright Act (Title 17, United States code, Public Law 94-553, 90 Stat. 2541) 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 rights to exhibit such a movie publicly outside the home, unless the site where the video is used is properly licensed for copyright compliant exhibition.
This legal copyright compliance requirement applies to colleges, universities, public schools, public libraries, daycare facilities, parks, recreation departments, summer camps, churches, private clubs, prisons, lodges, businesses, etc., regardless of whether admission is charged, whether the institution is commercial or non-profit, or whether a federal, state, or local agency is involved.
The movie studios who own copyrights, and their agents, are the only parties who are authorized to license sites such as colleges and universities. No other group or person has the right to exhibit or license exhibitions of copyrighted movies. Furthermore, copyrighted movies borrowed from other sources such as public libraries, colleges, personal collections, etc., cannot be used legally for showings in colleges or universities or in any other site which is not properly licensed.
The “Educational Exemption”
Under the “Educational Exemption,” copyrighted movies may be exhibited in a college without a license only if the movie exhibition is:
• An “integral part of a class session” and is of “material assistance to the teaching content.”
• Supervised by a teacher in a classroom.
• Attended only by students enrolled in a registered class of an accredited non-profit educational institution.
• Lawfully made using a movie that has been legally produced and obtained through rental or purchase.
How to Obtain Movies Legally
Most of the time, student organizations will not qualify for the exemption and will thus need to contact a movie company like Swank Motion Pictures or Criterion Pictures to obtain the rights to showcase a movie or other performance. If you would like assistance with this, please see the staff in the Office of Student Activities. The contact information for Swank Motion Pictures is listed below:
Swank Motion Pictures
201 South Jefferson Avenue
St. Louis, MO 63103-2579
Toll-Free: (800) 876-5577
Taken from “Film & Video Copyright Infringement: What Your College or University Needs to Know About the Public Performance of Movies” published by Swank Motion Pictures, Inc.