Commercial films and television shows are protected by copyright law, and may not be shown in any public setting on campus without obtaining a public performance license from the copyright owner. A public setting is defined as any venue on campus outside of an individual student’s residence. Even if an event is restricted to a certain group of students, such as members of a particular club, a license must be obtained in order to show a film or television show at that event. These copyright restrictions apply whether or not a fee will be charged for admission to the event.
Rights for public performance must be secured within 10 days of the scheduled event. Proof of license must be submitted to both the advising and or event management office. Failure to provide the timely submission of proof of license will lead to the cancellation of the space reservation and the subsequent event.
Student organizations found in violation of the law and Columbia University policies described above will risk de-recognition and could be subject to other penalties.
There are two principal companies who license films on behalf of the film companies:
The web sites for these companies list the films they represent and provide contact information.
If the film or show that you wish to license is not listed on either of these web sites, set forth below is information as to how to clear the rights:
- Find the copyright notice for the film (e.g. © 1981 or © 2004)
- Locate the film corporation name (e.g. 20th Century Film Corporation, Sony Picture Entertainment, MCA, Inc., MGM/United Artists, Universal Paramount Pictures Corporation, Warner Bros.)
- Call or email the company to with following information:
- Your name and contact information
- The name of your recognized student group
- The name of your student group adviser
- The title of the film
- The location where you plan to screen the film (e.g. Alfred Lerner Hall, Room 477, 2920 Broadway, New York, NY 10027)
- The date and time you plan to show the film
- The anticipated size of your audience
- Whether the event is free or if you plan to charge admission
If the copyright owner grants your request, the fee will generally be about $300. If the copyright owner denies your request, you will not be able to show the film in question at the event.