Film Screening Guidelines for Student Events

Public screening rights must be purchased and secured before advertising any event related to a movie/film screenings. Failure to adhere to these guidelines (even if done so innocently and inadvertently) can result in fines from $750 to $30,000 per showing.

Media that is available for purchase, rented from commercial establishments (such as a brick-and-mortar store or RedBox) or online sources (including Netflix, Hulu, Youtube, Prime Video), or checked out of the library are for home viewing purposes only. Any time a student group or University department shows a movie in any context, the host must purchase the public screening rights (copyright) for each individual screening regardless of audience size or cost of participation (admission fee or free). Copyright purchase for film rights currently runs between $300-$950 per showing for popular titles from major movie distributors such as Swank Motion Pictures, Criterion Pictures, or Motion Picture Licensing Corporation. Independent films could cost less, but must be negotiated with the holder of the copyright license.

For questions on how to obtain a Public Screening License, please contact

Private vs. Public Screening

Private: An individual personally invites a few friends over to watch a movie or a TV show that’s no longer available on TV. They buy or rent a DVD or Blue Ray disc from the store or a digital video file from an online store and show the film or TV episode in their home that night. This is considered a private home screening.

Public: An individual or group who hosts a meeting/gathering, creates a public Facebook event, or hangs posters to invite others (residents from their residence hall, members of a department or student organization) to watch a movie. This is considered a public screening and infringes the copyright of the movie or TV show the individual is showing.

Face-to-Face Exemption

The ONLY exception to this is in the case of face-to-face classroom instruction by a faculty member for a registered academic course. The faculty member may show the film/movie outside the normal class period (at night for example), however, it is only for those students who are registered for the class. Acceptable attendance for films in which the copyright is not purchased only include students registered for the class, the instructor, and guest lecturer(s). The movie must also be shown in spaces that are designated for instruction; therefore, library screening rooms, residence hall or program house lounges, meeting rooms, or other function spaces do not qualify. A faculty member cannot show it for their class AND open it up to the rest of the campus – in that case public screening rights must be purchased.

How to Obtain a Public Screening License

Tisch Library has obtained public screening licenses on some titles available through their catalog or online resources with the following requirements. Questions on library resources can be directed to the Tufts Scholarly Communications Team.


Institutional Streaming Licenses permit screening on the Unified Campus to a group only when no admission is charged and there is no advertising outside the learning community (see section 2f here).


Most films on Kanopy include public performance rights (PPR) at no additional cost. You can screen films that have PPR in any group programming that doesn't charge admission. These films will be marked with “PPR” in a box on the title details page. See more information from Kanopy about finding and using films with public performance rights.

Tisch Catalog

Search on “public performance rights” in the Tisch Library catalog to find a list of titles that the library owns that may have Public Screening Licenses. If they do, the record will note it at the bottom of the “Details” section in the “Terms of Use” field.

If the title you’re looking for is not available through the above resources, obtaining a public screening license is easy and usually requires no more than a few emails. Fees are determined by such factors as the number of times a movie is going to be shown, and how large the audience will be. While fees vary, they are generally inexpensive for smaller audiences. Most licensing fees are based on the specific film and screening details.

Company Website Phone
Swank Motion Pictures, Inc. (800) 876-5577
Criterion Pictures (800) 890-9494
Motion Picture Licensing Corp. (800) 462-8855

Netflix Original Documentaries

Some Netflix Original educational documentaries are available for one-time educational screenings and are denoted with a Grant of Permission for Educational Screenings. Educational screenings are permitted for approved titles only with the following terms:

  • The documentary may only be accessed via the Netflix service, by a Netflix account holder. They don’t sell DVDs, nor can we provide other ways for you to exhibit the film.
  • The screening must be non-profit and non-commercial. That means you can’t charge admission, fundraise, solicit donations, or accept advertising or commercial sponsorships in connection with the screening.
  • The documentary shall not be screened at any political event.
  • The use of Netflix’s logos in any promotion for the screening, or anything that indicates that the screening is “official” or endorsed by Netflix is prohibited.

To learn more about Netflix’s Grant of Permission for Education Screenings, visit their website.

Netflix Party

Netflix Party is Google Chrome plugin that synchronizes video playback and adds group chat for viewers to access copyrighted content on their personal devices through their own personal Netflix account. Because each viewer is using their personal accounts for private screenings, even if part of a publicly advertised event, this is permitted for campus groups. However, Netflix Party streams may not be broadcast in public/shared spaces such as meeting rooms or Residential Hall common rooms where the content becomes available to others. To learn more about Netflix Party, visit their website.


Similar to Netflix Party, Scener is also a Google Chrome plugin that allows viewers to synchronize video playback but offers hosts to present (via video) to all viewers, in addition to a chat feature. Each viewer must access their own individual account to view the content, and is compatible with Netflix, Disney+, HBO Max, Hulu, Prime Video, YouTube, Funimation, and more. To learn more about Scener, visit their website.


Hulu’s terms of use grant “… non-exclusive limited license to use the Services, including accessing and viewing the Content on a streaming-only basis through the Video Player, for personal, non-commercial purposes…” (see 3.2). Hulu does not permit any public screening of original content at this time.

Prime Video

Amazon Prime Video’s terms of use grant access to content “…in accordance with the Usage Rules, for personal, non-commercial, private use” (see 4.h). Amazon does not permit any public screening of original content at this time.


YouTube’s terms of use state that “The following restrictions apply to your use of the Service. You are not allowed to: …use the Service to view or listen to Content other than for personal, non-commercial use (for example, you may not publicly screen videos or stream music from the Service)…” (see “Permissions and Restrictions” #9). To show something from YouTube, an individual or organization would need to get in touch with the creator directly to obtain a copy of the film to screen from somewhere outside of YouTube.


Vimeo’s terms do not include any statements that broadly prohibits public screening, so videos licensed under Creative Commons would be able to be screened publicly. All of their Creative Commons videos can be browsed here.

Moving Image Archive

The Internet Archive’s Moving Image Archive is a great source of films that are believed to be in the public domain and thus can be publicly screened with no restrictions. The Library of Congress also has a Moving Image Research Center with early motion pictures.

The Law

The Federal Copyright Act (Title 17 of the U.S. Code) governs how copyrighted materials, such as movies, may be used. Neither the rental nor the purchase of a copy of a copyrighted work carries with it the right to publicly exhibit the work. No additional license is required to privately view a movie or other copyrighted work with a few friends and family or in certain narrowly defined face-to-face teaching activities. However, bars, restaurants, private clubs, prisons, lodges, factories, summer camps, public libraries, daycare facilities, parks and recreation departments, churches and non-classroom use at schools and universities are all examples of situations where a public screening license must be obtained. This legal requirement applies regardless of whether an admission fee is charged, whether the institution or organization is commercial or non-profit, or whether a federal or state agency is involved.

“Willful” infringement of these rules concerning public screenings for commercial or financial gain is a federal crime carrying a maximum sentence of up to five years in jail and/or a $250,000 fine. Even inadvertent infringement is subject to substantial civil damages.

Copyright Act

Section 110 of the 1984 Copyright Act provides a specific exemption to the licensing of what is clearly a public screening and what is face-to-face teaching. To qualify for the exemption, the showing must occur in a face-to-face teaching situation at a non-profit educational institution and meet all the following six criteria:

  1. Screenings of audiovisual works must be made from legitimate sources, such as pre-recorded videocassettes. Copies made from illegitimate sources or broadcasts are not allowed.
  2. Screening must be part of a systematic course of instruction and not for entertainment, recreation, or cultural value. The instructor should be able to show how the use of the motion picture contributes to the overall course study and syllabus. The course does not have to be a credit course but must be one recognized by the institution and for which students must register.
  3. The instructors or pupils must screen from the same location in which it is being screened; no broadcasting from outside sources (such as closed-circuit television) is allowed.
  4. Screenings must be given in classrooms and other places devoted to instruction; library screening rooms, residence hall, student union lounges, rathskellers, and cafeterias do not qualify.
  5. Screenings must be a part of the teaching activities at a non-profit teaching institution. Businesses that conduct educational seminars and certain technical schools do not qualify.
  6. Attendance is limited to the instructors, pupils, and guest lecturers. Only students registered for the class may attend the screening. No fee specific to the screening may be charged.

For more information on Copyright Infringement, click here.