Skip Navigation



  • List of movies
  • Public performance rights
  • Public domain
  • Home use
  • Face-to-face teaching exemption
  • PTA
  • Vendors that Sell Movies with Public Performance Rights
  • Vendors that Grant Public Performance Rights for Copyrighted Movies

Q:  I was wondering if the county has produced a list of approved movies that can be watched in the classroom?

A:  We have found there is a misconception regarding the purpose of using a movie in the classroom.  The movies approved for the classroom use are connected directly to the curriculum; we rarely see anyone watching an entire movie anymore; similar to using a primary source, or a read-aloud, movies reinforce something being taught in the curriculum - “we are not in the entertainment business” – with streaming video we can teach with segmented portions – or clips, such as those found in SAFARI montage.  Here you will find many video clips that support our curriculum as well as the state and national standards.  

Q: What is a public performance?

A: According to the U.S. copyright law (Title 17, United States Code, Section 110), a public performance is any screening of a videocassette, DVD, videodisc, streaming or film which occurs outside of the home, or at any place where people are gathered who are not family members, such as in a school, library, auditorium, classroom or meeting room.

Q: How Do I Find Out if a Movie Has Public Performance Rights? 

A:  Students, instructors, librarians, and film enthusiasts often want to show movies in a public setting for their clubs, classes, or organizations. Be advised that unless the movie is in the public domain or the movie was acquired with public performance rights, you will be breaking the copyright law. Just as you cannot rent a movie from the local video store or access Netflix (or other streaming vendors) and then screen it in a public space (because the rental is licensed only for home viewing), you cannot show movies in a public setting without first determining if you have permission to do so -- even if you're not charging admission.

In order to comply with copyright law, you should get the material from a vendor that rents or sells the title with public performance rights. The only exception to this rule is the face-to-face teaching exemption in which an instructor shows the material in a classroom as part of a class or teaching activity and not for recreation or entertainment.
The following resources will help you determine whether a movie has public performance rights and, if not, how to obtain them.

Q: What are public domain movies? 

A: Public domain comprises the body of information and creativity considered to be part of a common cultural and intellectual heritage. In short, anyone may use or exploit, whether for commercial or non-commercial purposes. There are hundreds of movies, cartoons, and dozens of television shows that are now in the public domain. The copyrights to many of these movies were either not properly registered initially or were not renewed and therefore the content is now in the public domain.

Q: What are movies with public performance rights? 

A: These are movies that have been purchased or licensed with the legal right to screen them in a public setting for a non-paying audience. Many vendors sell titles in two licensing versions: a version licensed for home use only (typically cheaper and without public performance rights) and an institutional version that is more expensive but includes public performance rights, permitting screenings for a non-paying audience in an institutional context. Some vendors offer blanket or umbrella licenses for all titles (as opposed to selling individual licenses per title purchased). Some vendors also have a library license version that may be for limited use (for loan within a library systems and patrons only) or full use (public performance rights and/or interlibrary loan). If you are not sure which version your institution purchased, contact the Office of Library Media at 301.386.8208.

Q: What does "home use only" mean? 

A: In the case of motion pictures, including video recordings, and of other audiovisual works, one of the exclusive rights of the copyright owner is to perform or display the work publicly. Unless video recordings are sold or rented with public performance rights or are licensed for public performance, they should be considered home use only and should be restricted to private showings in the home to a "normal circle of a family and its social acquaintances." The only exception to this is the face-to-face teaching exemption.

Q: What is the face-to-face teaching exemption? 

A: The U.S. copyright law contains an exception that allows the lawful use of home use only video recordings for public performance or display without the permission of the copyright owner. This is the so-called face-to-face teaching exemption allowing instructors to show video recordings in a classroom as long as the activity is a teaching activity and not recreation or entertainment. This exemption is covered in Section 110 (1) of the U.S. Copyright Law, which allows the classroom use of video programs that have not been cleared for public performance if, and only if, all of the conditions set forth by the law are met. Any material used for instruction in Prince George’s county must have been approved for classroom use.  There are very specific rules for movies; they need approval.  There are approval forms to aid you in the process of movie selection/evaluation.  Your media specialist has the form or you may contact the Office of Library Media Services at 301.386.8208.

Helpful Web Sites Explaining Public Performance Rights

Vendors that Sell Movies with Public Performance Rights

Many vendors of educational videos/DVDs sell institutional versions of titles that automatically come with public performance rights. All titles purchased from the following vendors are institutional versions that come with public performance rights:

Other vendors of educational materials not listed above may also offer public performance licensing, but you will need to contact them in order to verify.

Q:  My principal asked me if the copyright rules would apply for PTA having movie nights, as to what movies they are able to show.

A:   It is the responsibility for the PTA to get the public performance rights to show those movies; There is a company (Swank, Movie Licensing USA) that sells annual rights to public performances to a large block of movies.  For a fee, this gives the PTA public performance rights for certain movies.  However, in addition to this licensing, REMEMBER, if the movies are being used during the school day, they must also comply with the county’s review and evaluation rules as well as having a specific curriculum connection. 

How to Obtain Permission to Screen Copyrighted Movies

If a copyrighted movie is not licensed for public performance (i.e., it's licensed only for home use), you will need to obtain permission from the copyright owner. There are two ways to do this:

  1. Contact the copyright holder directly, or contact the distributor if the distributor has the authority from the copyright owner to grant licenses, to purchase public performance rights, or to request permission for a particular public performance use.
  2. Contact the licensing service representing the particular studio or title (particularly in the case of feature films). Services vary in the types of licensing offered and the scope of materials represented. See "Vendors that Grant Public Performance Rights" for more information.

Vendors that Grant Public Performance Rights for Copyrighted Movies

If you want to show a copyrighted film in a public setting, you will need to contact one of these licensing service companies to obtain permission.

Criterion Pictures USA, Inc.
8238-40 Lehigh
Morton Grove, IL 60053-2615
1-800-890-9494 or 1-847-470-8164
Fax: 1-847-470-8194

Kino International Corp. 333 W. 39th Street, Ste. 503
New York, N.Y. 10018
1-800-562-3330 or 1-212-629-6880
Fax: 1-212-714-0871
Email: or

Milestone Film & Video 
P.O. Box 128
Harrington Park, NJ 07640-0128
1-800-603-1104 or 1-201-767-3117
Fax: 1-201-767-3035

Motion Picture Licensing Corporation (MPLC)
5455 Centinela Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90066-6970
1-800-462-8855 or 1-310-822-8855
Fax 1-310-822-4440

Movie Licensing USA
A division of Swank Motion Pictures, Inc.
201 South Jefferson Avenue
St. Louis, MO 63103-2579
Schools: 1-877-321-1300
Libraries: 1-888-267-2658
Other organizations: 1-800-876-5577
Fax:1-314-287-1748 (schools), 1-877-876-9873 (libraries)
Email: or

New Yorker Films
16 West 61st Street
New York, NY 10023
1-877-247-6200 or 1-212-247-6110
Fax: 1-212-307-7855

Swank Motion Pictures, Inc.
(800) 876-5577

For other inquiries, please contact the Office of Library Media Services.