Copyright Guidelines for Showing Movies on               UPPS No. 01.04.23

Campus                                                                                 Issue No. 5

Effective Date: 9/22/2010

Review: December 1 E2Y





01.01   This UPPS provides guidelines to both individuals as well as organizations for complying with the federal Copyright Act insofar as it affects showing movies on campus. Other policy statements that are relevant to other portions of the Copyright Act include:


a.   musical performances on campus (UPPS No. 01.04.20);


b.   copying material for use in the University Library (UPPS No. 01.04.21); and


c.   copyrighted software (UPPS No. 01.04.24).


01.02  This UPPS only summarizes the applicable portions of the Copyright Act. Persons may address questions regarding the applicability of the Act to specific situations to the university attorney. The reference librarians in the library can address general inquiries concerning the Act.




02.01  In this policy, the term “Act” refers to the federal Copyright Act (Title 17 of the United States Code).


02.02  A “movie” means a length of film (with or without sound) with a sequence of images that create an illusion of movement when projected or showed by any means. The term includes movies on DVDs, videotapes, Web sites, and those downloaded or received electronically from another party, and other media.




03.01  Purchasing, renting, or borrowing a movie normally gives you only the copy rather than the copyright to the movie. While you are free to watch the movie yourself, you need a license from the copyright owner if you show the movie “to the public.”


03.02  There is no general educational, nonprofit, or free-of-charge exception to the Act. Even if a performance meets all three of these factors it will require a license if it constitutes a public performance and does not fall within one of the exceptions listed in Section 03.04.


03.03  To determine whether you need such a license, you must determine whether your proposed showing would constitute a “public performance” as defined in the Act. The showing is a public performance if either of the following is true:


a.    You show the movie to people other than family or a small group of friends. Generally speaking, showing a movie in a residence hall or apartment room is not a public performance if you limit attendance to family and friends.


b.   You show the movie in a place open to people other than family or a small group of friends. Examples include classrooms, lounges, recreation areas, auditoriums, and common areas of residence halls, apartments, the LBJ Student Center, and similar buildings.


1)   If you used publicity to invite your audience to the showing (such as mass e-mails, flyers, or Web postings) you will need a license.

2)   If you charge admission to the showing or to an event in conjunction with the showing you will need a license.


03.04  Even if your proposed showing will constitute a public performance you will not need a license if any of the following is true:


a.   Showing the movie during “face-to-face” teaching activities in a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction and you have a legitimate copy of the movie. A “legitimate copy of the movie” is a copy you purchased or rented, not a copy you taped from a broadcast.


b.   Showing a film strictly for nonprofit, pedagogical purposes in classes where films are primary texts and are available only to registered members of the course and are used solely in the service of coursework.


c.   Showing a movie that came with an express license authorizing the particular manner of showing. Some educational movies come with licenses to show them for certain noncommercial institutional purposes.


d.   Showing a movie that is in the public domain. The Public Domain Movie Database publishes a list of movies it believes are in the public domain but it is not authoritative.


03.05  You can obtain a public performance license by either renting the movie directly from a distributor that is authorized to grant such licenses rather than from a video store or by contacting the copyright holder directly.


a.   SWANK Motion Pictures, Incorporated lists films that it distributes on its Web page ( and adds new films daily. Its phone number is 800-876-5577.


b.   Criterion is the other big distributor. Its Web site is and its phone number is 800-890-9494.


c.   The Reference Library of the Motion Picture Academy (310-247-3020) may help determine the film distributor.




04.01  Reviewers of this UPPS include the following:


Position                                                         Date


University Attorney                                      December 1 E2Y


Chair, Faculty Senate                                 December 1 E2Y




This UPPS has been approved by the following individuals in their official capacities and represents Texas State policy and procedure from the date of this document until superseded.


University Attorney; senior reviewer of this UPPS


Special Assistant to the President