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GU-Q: Online Documentaries

Important Information

Public Performance Rights


If you plan to show a film at an event, you may need to obtain public performance rights (PPR), which is a license that allows a film to be shown publicly. Almost all films are protected by copyright, and PPR need to be obtained when films are shown "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." (§ 101 of the Copyright Act). There are some exceptions when PPR are not required:

  • individual viewing
  • home viewing with family and friends
  • classroom viewing - “in the course of face-to-face teaching activities…, in a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction" (§ 110) as long as the copy being shown was lawfully made.
  • viewing in small groups, such as in a group study room
When do I need Public Performance Rights?

PPR are required to show copyrighted works in situations other than those listed above, including:

  • film festivals
  • meetings, programs, and events on campus
  • movie nights sponsored by student or other groups

If, however, you are showing limited portions of a film or television show, even if it is in a public setting, then fair use might apply. Read more about fair use here.

Do the library's films have public performance rights (PPR)?

Some of the films in the GU-Q Library collection have PPR. However, since PPR is not required for classroom teaching and small group screening, the library does not secure PPR with every purchase. A note is added to the catalog record when the DVD has PPR:

Documentaries and educational films from the following online streaming collections contain PPR:

  • Filmakers Library Online - these films can be shown to Georgetown's "currently enrolled full- or part-time students, employees, faculty, staff, affiliated researchers, distance learners, and visiting scholars."
  • Films on Demand - these films can be shown to Georgetown's faculty, students and staff "for classroom teaching, research, presentations, and educational non-commercial multimedia projects for use in educational institutions, provided no admission or other fees are charged for public viewing.
  • Kanopy - these films may be presented to "faculty, staff, students, affiliated researchers, visiting scholars, and authorized attendees at educational classes hosted by Georgetown."

If you have questions about our licenses with streaming providers, please send an email to

How can I get public performance rights for a screening on campus?

Individuals and organizations are responsible for obtaining performance rights for all publicly screened media. It can be as expensive as $350/title for one screening, please budget your event accordingly. Some companies to contact to secure PPR:

For other films, you may need to contact the producer or distributor directly.  Finding the rights holders and securing PPR for foreign films, independent films, and older films may be difficult or impossible.

More information

Netflix has made selected films available for educational screenings. The library does not have a subscription to Netflix, so you need to use a personal account. Click here to learn more about educational screenings of Netflix documentaries. All other Netflix films are subject to their standard terms of use: The Netflix service and any content viewed through our service are for your personal and non-commercial use only.... You agree not to use the service for public performances.