Answered By: Charles Cobine
Last Updated: Aug 07, 2019     Views: 52

Selected films purchased by Penn Libraries come bundled with Public Performance Rights (PPR), the legal right to screen a film in a public venue. Penn Libraries purchases other films for its collections from various sources, including wholesalers, retailers, and independent film distributors. For this reason, for the majority of items in library media collections at Penn, you likely will not have PPR automatically if the Penn Libraries happens to own a copy of the film on DVD.

The copyright holder for the film usually will require PPR to be purchased separately, which normally involves contacting the rights holder to seek permission and paying a fee that can be anywhere between $250-$450 for the right to screen the film, or feature it in a film series. PPR can apply to a single screening, a limited number of screenings, or unlimited showings.

The mission of the library is to collect and make accessible a wide variety of films and media for researchers, instructors, and students. Whenever possible the Penn Libraries' goal is to own a copy of the item under the first sale doctrine of U.S. copyright law. U.S. law states that if a library purchases "a copy of a copyrighted work from the copyright holder," as a library, we reserve the right to lend the item. However, Penn Libraries is not permitted to pay for PPR for films already in its collections, even when an individual student, instructor, or student organization arranges a film screening or series, because Penn Libraries budgets for films are expressly restricted to purchase of collection materials, whether they are print or electronic (via streaming video platforms). As the library is unable to fund rights and licensing fees, often we refer event or film series organizers on campus to the Student Activities Council at SAS, the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly, GAPSA, across all 12 of Penn's schools, or Wharton Council, among other groups.

To inquire about the availability of PPR of a particular film in our collection, or for more guidance about planning a film screening, series, or festival, please contact Charles Cobine, Cinema & Media Studies Librarian, at cobine@upenn.edu. 

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