Film Screening Policy

This page is intended to provide a brief and cursory overview of Federal Copyright Laws and university policies that govern the screening of films on the Appalachian State University campus. The Federal Copyright Act (Public law 94-553, Title 17 of the United States Code) governs the conditions under which copyrighted materials, such as films, may be screened.

This information has been reviewed and approved by the Appalachian State University’s Attorney’s Office.

Public Campus Screening

If you would like to screen a film on campus as part of a public campus program (including an academic film series), you must obtain a Public Performance License (typical range: $300.00 - $500.00) for the individual film(s) from a licensing agent (a list is provided below), which allows you the right to screen your film publicly on the ASU campus. This license is required even if your film is offered to the public for free and is educational in nature. If using University facilities for the screening, you will be required to provide the appropriate University entity with a copy of the license that specifies the title and screening date of the approved film.

Federal Copyright Laws protect all movies viewed in public areas regardless of format (16 mm, 35 mm, video tape or DVD). Video Tapes and DVDs that are available for purchase, rental, or library check-out are for private home viewing purposes only.

There are, however, a few exceptions. You may screen the film publicly if:

  1. The film is in the Public Domain.
  2. You have written permission from the film’s producer or other holder of the right to grant such permission.
  3. The film is obtained from a company that provides a Public Performance License with the purchase of the film.

The ASU Library has a small selection of films that come with a Public Performance License. These films are most often documentary in nature, and typically do not include commercial or theatrically released films. Producing proof of this public exhibition privilege is the responsibility of the person wishing to screen the film. (NOTE: The "Air Copy" sticker on library- owned videos is NOT an indicator that the film includes public performance rights.)

The University Library has acquired a Public Performance License with DVDs or videos purchased from the following companies.  The rights listed below apply only to showings on the Appalachian State University campus.

  • Appalshop. Titles are purchased under the company's "educational use" option which includes public performance rights provided no admission is charged.
  • Bullfrog Films.  Titles include public performance rights provided no admission fee is charged. This does NOT include the right to show the film on television or online, only the right to show the film in public to any audience where the projector and audience are in the same room. Public performance rights are NOT included for those titles that indicate they are "Home Use Versions."
  • Filmmakers Library, Inc.  Titles purchased include Public Performance Rights, allowing an institution to exhibit a legally-acquired copy, so long as:
    • No admission fee/donation is collected.
    • The screening takes place at the purchasing venue itself.
    • The primary audience for the screening is members of the purchasing institution (for example, students and faculty of a school) and the screening IS NOT advertised or promoted to the general public.
  • Films Media Group. Titles purchased include Public Performance Rights when no admission is charged.  Rights are also included for closed-circuit transmission within a single building or a single geographically unified campus.
  • First Run. Titles purchased are licensed with Public Performance Rights for non-commercial and educational exhibition for groups of 50 or less.  No admission may be charged and screenings may not be open to the public.
  • Frameline. Titles purchased through an institutional purchase include public performance rights in an educational institution where no admission is charged.  They may not be broadcast or televised (except for closed-circuit campus use).
  • Icarus Films.  Titles are licensed with Public Performance Rights for non-commercial and educational exhibition when no admission fee is charged.  Digital streaming rights are NOT included.
  • Media Education Foundation. All purchased videos and DVDs are licensed:
    • for closed-circuit viewing within the institution that made the purchase; and
    • for classroom viewing and public screening where no admission is charged.
    • rights to "stream" or "webcast" via an internet server are NOT included, even if password protected.
  • Video Project. Titles are licensed for unlimited single site, non-theatrical, non-commercial, non-broadcast, internal use by the purchasing organization only. No admission fees may be charged, and no public uses are permitted (screening or use of the DVD with others outside the purchasing organization) unless a commercial license is purchased.
  • Zipporah Films. The following titles are licensed for non-commercial public performance on campus only: "Basic Training," "Central Park," "Cool World," "High School," "Hospital," "Meat," "Primate," "Store," "Titicut Follies," and "Welfare"

Classroom Screenings/Face-to-Face Teaching

The Federal Copyright Law allows for the screening of a DVD or videocassette, without a license, in certain narrowly defined face-to-face teaching activities (Federal Copyright Act, Title 17, section 110(1). Appalachian State University understands that the face-to-face teaching exemption is valid only in situations where a teacher is present in a non-public classroom environment, uses a ”lawfully made” DVD, videocassette, or other motion picture or audiovisual work for the purpose of teaching part of a course curriculum, and the screening is not open to the public. This educational exemption only applies to nonprofit academic institutions. Further, a motion picture in whatever format (including DVD or videocassette) that has been made by copying or recording on a home (or similar) recording device (e.g., VHS or DVD recorder) is not lawfully made for purposes of this exemption. A DVD or video recording that was manufactured and distributed by an entity having the right to do so, and that has been purchased, rented, or borrowed from a library, is lawfully made.


Federal Copyright Law.
Title 17, Chapter 1

Section 101. To perform or display a work “publicly” means —
(1) to perform or display it 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;

Section 110. Limitations on exclusive rights: Exemption of certain performances and displays
Not withstanding the provisions of Section 106, the following are not infringements of copyright:
(1) performance or display of a work by instructors or pupils in the course of face-to-face teaching activities of a nonprofit educational institution, in a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction, unless, in the case of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, the performance, or the display of individual images, is given by means of a copy that was not lawfully made under this title, and that the person responsible for the performance knew or had reason to believe was not lawfully made;


General Film Usage Restrictions under the Federal Copyright Act

Restaurants, prisons, summer camps, public libraries, day-care facilities, parks and recreation departments, churches, and non-classroom use at schools and universities are all examples of screenings where a public performance license must be obtained. This legal requirement applies regardless of whether an admission fee is charged, whether the institution or organization is commercial or non-profit, or whether a federal or state agency is involved.

Businesses, institutions, organizations, companies or individuals wishing to engage in non-home showings of home videocassettes or DVDs must secure licenses to do so - regardless of whether an admission or other fee is charged (Section 501). This legal requirement applies equally to profit-making organizations and non-profit institutions (Senate Report No. 94-473, page 59; House Report No. 94-1476, page 62).

Steps for screening a film in Belk Library and Information Commons

To reserve space in Room 114:

  • Complete the online reservation request form. If the date/time is available, and public performance rights are required, your reservation will flagged as 'TENTATIVE.'
  • If the film screening does not meet the Classroom Screenings/Face-to-Face Teaching then a letter of permission for public performance or a Public Performance License must be provided before your reservation can be confirmed. This proof must be provided at least 48 hours (and during Monday through Friday 8:00 am-5:00 pm) prior to the event or your reservation will be cancelled.
  • Once your reservation is confirmed and prior to the scheduled date, contact Katherine Alford (or at 828-262-4972) for training on the equipment.

Room 114: DVD and VHS capability. Capacity is 125 theater-style seating.

Non-theatrical movie distributors and Public Performance Licensing Agents for publicly exhibited film screenings. Film catalogs vary with each company.


New Yorker Films
First Run/Icarus Films
October Films
Filmakers Library, Inc.
Women Make Movies


Federal Copyright Website:

Motion Picture Association: