Obtaining a public performance license for a film is relatively easy and usually requires no more than an email or phone call. Fees are determined by such factors as the number of times a particular movie is going to be shown, how large the audience will be and so forth. While fees vary, they are generally between $200-400 per showing.

Note on documentaries: Some of the documentaries that have been purchased for Skillman’s collection came with public performance rights. This means that can be shown on campus anytime without needing to call or pay extra for permission (subject to certain limitations, of course). Look for rights information on the video label, container, on the screen or contact the research help department at refdesk@lafayette.edu or call (610) 330-5155.

Note on Netflix Original educational documentaries: Some Netflix Original educational documentaries are available for one-time screenings in educational settings including campus events as long as the event is non-profit and non-commercial. See details at https://help.netflix.com/en/node/57695

To obtain a public performance license:

  • Check with the copyright holder directly.
  • Check with the distributor to see if they have the authority from the copyright holder to grant licenses. (This is a good method for documentaries.)
  • In the case of major feature films, you can use a licensing service. Note that services vary in the types of licensing offered and the particular studio or title represented. Costs of a license are usually related to the film’s release date. See below of a list of some licensing services.

Some licensing services

Swank Motion Pictures, Inc. or Movie Licensing USA (a division of Swank) Major movie distributor and a public performance-licensing agent in non-theatrical markets where feature entertainment movies are shown. They offer special services for college campuses, and represent: Walt Disney Studios, Touchstone Pictures, Hollywood Pictures, Warner Bros., Paramount Pictures, Columbia Pictures, Tri-Star Pictures, Miramax Films, Universal Studios, DreamWorks Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, United Artists, and several independent studios.

Criterion Pictures USA, Inc. Offers non-theatrical performance rights and 1 year contract to show all films from companies they represent including: Twentieth Century Fox, New Line Cinema/Fine Line Features, Warner Brothers, Tri-Star Pictures, Columbia Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Fox Searchlight, Sony Pictures, Motion International, Astral, Canadian Famous Players, Lions Gate Films, plus many more.

Some companies may also handle their own label, such as: Icarus Films, Women Make MoviesKino Lorber, Milestone Films.

Films in the Public Domain

The Library of Congress has a useful guide to finding films in the public domain.