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Movies and Copyright

Guidelines for Public Movie Showings

Under copyright law, a movie or other work requires permission to be “performed publicly.” A movie is considered to be performed “publicly” when it is shown: (1) at a place open to the public; or (2) at any place where a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of a family and its social acquaintances is gathered. (17 U.S.C. § 101) In view of this broad definition of public performance, the following guidelines should be followed when movies are shown on campus.

Classroom Showings

Copyright law provides a specific exemption for films shown by instructors or students in the course of face-to-face teaching activities of a nonprofit educational institution in a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction. (17 U.S.C. § 110(1).) As long as a lawfully made copy is used for such classroom showings, no prior permission from the copyright holder is required. If you have questions about whether or not your use qualifies for this exemption, please fill out the Movie Request Form to submit a request. The Copyright Licensing Office will review the details of your use and help determine whether or not it qualifies.

Student Club/Extracurricular Showings (Including On-Campus Wards):

For public movie showings on campus that are not within the course of face-to-face teaching activities in a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction, permission and a license from the respective copyright holder is generally required. Basically, if the movie is intended for entertainment rather than classroom-type purposes, a license is required. Please fill out the Movie Request Form to submit a request for licensing with our office (please allow 1-2 weeks for the processing of your request). Contact 801-422-9339 or for assistance if needed.

The fee for a public movie performance license typically ranges from $275-$1,500, depending on the popularity of the movie and the size of the audience. A good budget estimate is to plan on approximately $7 per student/attendee for up to 50 people. Then the individual price estimate continually decreases as the number of attendees goes up. See the fee schedule chart below for specific pricing.

Typical Movie License fee schedule*:

# of peoplePrice ($)

*Fee is determined by popularity of the movie and the wishes of the Studio. Fees could be less, or more.

**NOTE: 20th Century Fox films are less expensive ($250 for 100-400 people) if you can find a choice in their catalog that works.

If a fee cannot be paid, below are some alternatives you may consider:

  • Deseret Video catalogue
    *Please note that not all titles may be available, and approval for these film showings must be granted by the BYU Copyright Licensing Office since we have negotiated a limited number of showings for BYU student groups/wards per year.

  • Any film released prior to 1923 is in the Public Domain in the United States. There are some surprising titles that have entered the Public Domain due to failure to renew or register the copyright (including cult-classic “Night of the Living Dead”(1968), “A Farewell to Arms”(1932), and “Hunchback of Notre Dame”(1923), among others). You may consult this List of films in the public domain in the U.S. as found on Wikipedia for other surprising titles that may be used. Please note that this Wikipedia article is a guide only. If you have any questions about the public domain status of a film please contact the Copyright Licensing Office at 801-422-9339 or

  • BYUSA purchases rights to show popular films at the Varsity Theatre. If you would like to rent out an entire show time for an upcoming film, please contact BYUSA’s fees may be cheaper than licensing a direct showing.

Off-Campus Ward and Stake Showings

General Handbook: “Can I show commercial audiovisual products at Church functions? Generally not. Church members should not violate warnings and restrictions that are placed on commercial audiovisual products. Using commercial audiovisual products at Church functions generally requires permission from the copyright owners.” (Section 38.8.11, Copyrighted Materials.)

The BYU Copyright Licensing Office does not assist with licenses for off-campus movie showings. For permission to show a Deseret Video, please email For other films, you may wish to pursue licensing through Swank Motion Pictures or Criterion Pictures. Church leaders serving in BYU wards and stakes can contact our office for additional guidance, if needed (801-422-9339 or

Other Movie/Television Resources

Other questions?

Contact the Copyright Licensing Office at 801-422-9339 or or fill out the Movie Request Form to submit a movie licensing request. Please allow 1-2 weeks for the processing of your request.