Answered By: Ana Enriquez
Last Updated: Oct 11, 2019     Views: 10

U.S. copyright law gives copyright holders the right to control public performances of their works. However, this right (like all of the rights U.S. copyright provides) is subject to user's rights, including fair use and Section 110. When considering whether you need permission to perform a work, ask yourself the following questions:

Is the work protected by copyright? If the work (and any underlying works) is in the public domain, you don't need permission.
  1. Is my performance "public"? If your performance is not public, copyright does not regulate it, so you don't need permission. A performance is public in either of the following cases:
    1. It is done "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." Classrooms and dorm common areas both meet this standard.

    2. It is "transmit[ted] or otherwise communicate[d] . . . to a place specified by [the section above] or to the public, by means of any device or process, whether the members of the public capable of receiving the performance or display receive it in the same place or in separate places and at the same time or at different times."

  2. Does Section 110 permit my use? Section 110 lists many types of public performances for which copyright permission is not required.

    1. Section 110(1) permits the "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." It applies to many performances by students and teachers at Penn State.

    2. Section 110(2) permits certain performances in online teaching.

    3. Other subsections of 110 permit certain performances during religious services, for non-profit purposes, on homestyle equipment, and in many other specific circumstances.

  3. Does Section 107 (fair use) permit my use? If so, permission is not required.

  4. Do the University's PRO (performance rights organization) licenses permit my use? If so, additional permission is not required, but you must report the performances according to Procedure CR2044.

  5. Has the University purchased public performance rights (PPR) that would permit my use? The Libraries sometimes purchase public performance rights along with copies of films. You can check the Libraries catalog to see if public performance rights were purchased for a particular film.

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