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Copyright Information Center

What are Public Performance Rights?

U.S. Copyright law requires that all videos displayed 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 must have public performance rights. Public performance rights are a special license that is either purchased with a video or separately from the video to allow the video to be shown outside of personal home use. This statute applies to all videos currently under copyright. This includes videos you have purchased, borrowed from the library, or rented from a video store or services like Netflix.

Exceptions for Classroom Video Use

According to Copyright Law (Title 17, United States Code, Section 110) instructors or students who are displaying the video in the course of face-to-face teaching activities of a nonprofit educational institution, in a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction do not require public performance rights. However, any other public display of video on campus outside of use in a specific course, including by student or faculty groups, requires a public performance license.

Obtaining Public Performance Rights

If you wish to show a video in the library that does not already have public performance rights included you will be required to provide proof that you have obtained a public performance license for your use.

The following licensing companies sell public performance rights.

Library Videos with Public Performance Rights

The library video collection does include some videos that were purchased with public performance rights. Library owned videos from the following vendors already have public performance rights and may be shown to groups without any additional licensing.

Other videos purchased by the library may have public performance rights included. Contact Danielle Whren Johnson at 410-617-6872,, or regarding individual videos obtained from vendors other than those listed below. Note that feature films (i.e. Hollywood movies) will never come with public performance rights.

Streaming Video

The videos inside of the streaming media databases the library subscribes to include the public performance rights.