Q: What are film screening rights (public performance rights)?

A: Under The Copyright Act of Canada and United States Copyright Laws, any film shown to the public must have Public Performance Rights.

Q: What is considered a public performance?  Does it matter if my screening is free?

A: Any film that is open to the general public (meaning that anyone can attend) is considered a public performance.  It does not matter if your screening is free, admission-by-donation, or paid admission — you still will require public performance rights to screen most films.

Q: I can’t afford the hundreds (or thousands) the copyright holders typically ask to hold a public screening.  Are there ways to obtain the public performance rights for free?

A: Yes.  There are numerous options and ways in which you may obtain the public performance rights for free.

  • Many public libraries purchase the public performance rights for documentary films. There is usually a sticker on the film that states it comes with public performance rights.  If you are not sure about a particular film, please check with your local library.
  • Here’s another option- consider an Inter-Library Loan from another library that has the film you want to screen.  You can have your local librarian check to ensure the film has public performance rights before ordering the film.  Most Inter-Library Loans are free.
  • Universities and Colleges can obtain campus-wide public performance rights for films in their library.  This means you could potentially screen your film on campus with permission of the university through a campus club, or your student union.   Please check with your campus library first.
  • Many documentary filmmakers want their films seen by the public and will automatically include public performance rights with all copies of their film.  Our documentary film guide contains many such films.  Also, some documentary filmmakers actively look for volunteers to organize public screenings and will gladly provide you with the public performance rights if asked.
  • A recent and increasing trend is having films released under alternative copyright licenses, such as Creative Commons, that most often allow for non-commercial (i.e. free) public performances.  This includes many documentary films which have only been released online.
  • Some film producers and distributors, such as the National Film Board of Canada, provide public performance rights with most (or all) of their films.  Our documentary film guide lists such films.
  • Cinema Politica is an organization that obtains public performance rights and films for public screenings by activists.  The good: They provide loans of the DVDs and take care of the public performance rights (although many of the films they provide, the filmmakers already provided public performance rights with copies of their film).  The bad: There is a fee to form a screening chapter.  The fee is subject to change, but it may begin at $500.

Q: I can’t obtain the public performance rights for a film I want to screen.  Are you able to cover the cost of the public performance rights?

A: Sorry, no. As much as we’d love to support your work, Regenesis does not have the funds available to cover public performance costs.

Q: Why do you support copyright?

A: We don’t support copyright – but we don’t want to jeopardize our work by getting sued (or risk having you get sued).  If you don’t support copyright either, work to change the system by supporting the Anti-copyright and Free Culture Movements.

DISCLAIMER: The information on this website, and in any documents attached to this website, should not be considered legal advice, is not a substitute for legal advice, and does not constitute legal advice.  Please contact a legal professional in your jurisdiction to answer any legal questions you may have.