Showing Movies at Events

What is a Public Performance?

When you watch a movie or TV show obtained through a brick-and-mortar or online store, or streamed through an online source, you don’t need any special license from the copyright owners to watch it at home. And that’s still true if you invite a few friends over to watch it with you. But if you’re planning to show the movie or TV show “at a place open to the public” or “at any place where a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of a family and its social acquaintances is gathered,” you first need to obtain what’s called a “public performance” license.  Any common areas and event venues on Northwestern campus are considered public spaces.  This includes the entirety of the Norris University Center and Norris Satellite Venues.

The concept of the copyright owner’s exclusive right to perform its works publicly, enshrined in §106(4) of the Copyright Act, is central to copyright. If creators and makers do not retain the ability to control how and when their works are publicly exhibited, then there is little incentive for them to continue creating top content.

Obtaining a Public Performance License

Securing public performance license is easy and usually requires no more than a 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. The major firms that issue these licenses on behalf of movie studios, including the MPAA’s members, include:

Swank Motion Pictures, Inc. www.swank.com (800) 876-5577 (Northwestern Preferred)

Criterion Pictures www.criterionpicusa.com (800) 890-9494

Motion Picture Licensing Corporation www.mplc.com (800) 462-8855