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Event Planning

Film and Video Copyright

Copyright Law

The Federal Copyright Act (Title 17 of the United States Code) governs how copyrighted materials, such as movies, may be used. Any public showing of any format (VHS, DVD) requires the permission of the rights holder unless it meets the strict requirements of the "face to face teaching exemption."

The "home use" videos and DVDs obtained from Netflix, retailers, and the Multimedia Center are not intended to be used for public consumption. If you are planning a film program on campus you should arrange for public performance rights, even if you are not charging an admission fee.


If you have questions about copyright laws or are interested in arranging for performance rights, contact the Multimedia Center (MMC) staff. MMC is located on the ground floor of Rush Rhees Library and staff can be reached at (585) 275-3009 or Please consult your group's advisor to ensure compliance when planning a film program on campus.

Your Options

In order to show a film on campus legally, you must do one of the following:

  • Arrange with University of Rochester Cinema Group to show the film as part of their series so that the copyrights and public performance licenses are acquired legally.
  • Contact MMC and pay the appropriate fee to acquire the rights to show the film of your choice (generally, this fee ranges from $300 to $500, depending on the film). MMC may also be willing to purchase the film outright if the film has public performance rights; MMC would then add this film to its library collection for others to use.
  • Contact MMC and request a list of "public domain" films, which do not require a license.
  • Arrange with a professor to show a film as part of the curriculum of a specific course. However, only those registered members of that particular class will be allowed to view the film and you will not be able to advertise this to the general campus community.
  • Contact the Dryden Theatre at the George Eastman Museum or the Little Theatre to request a private showing of a film. There is a fee for this service.