There are generally two types of licence available in relation to playing, showing or performance of movies in public in the non-theatrical market. The non-theatrical market includes schools, film societies, student unions, college and universities, and libraries.
The two licences are:
- An umbrella (annual screening) licence and
- A title-by-title licence
The type of licence required by a university or college film club will basically depend on two things:
- The nature of the audience admitted to screenings and
- Whether or not there is a charge for admission.
Filmbank Distibutors Ltd (Filmbank) is one example of a licensing body offering both types of licence.
Filmbank operates the Public Video Screening Licence (PVSL) which is an umbrella licence for the non-theatrical market to cover the public screening or performance of films by participating studios/distributors as rightsholders. This is the type of licence required for example in making a film available in lunch breaks for student entertainment.
Where a college or university film club shows for non-educational purposes commercially bought DVDs to an audience limited to staff or students in the institution, then this would be covered by the PVSL licence provided no direct or indirect charge is made for membership of the film club or for viewing the film.
The PVSL licence would not permit admitting a wider audience eg parents or the general public to a screening. More information on the PVSL licence including licence fees can be obtained from Filmbank’s website.
Where a college or university film club intends to show the film to an audience which is not limited to staff or students, for example by admitting non-members, or intends charging for the screening of the film or admission to the premises, this would be covered by Filmbank’s separate Single Title Screening Licence.
This licence is issued on a title by title basis, is limited to films from Filmbank’s list of participating studios/distributors and covers both non-commercial and commercial screenings.
For the purposes of a college or university film club the non-commercial licence terms may be appropriate provided any advertising of the screening is limited to advertising within the institution or by email or newsletter to club members only. Advertising the screening on a publicly accessible website is not permitted but advertising on a members only password protected website is allowed.
Charging for admission to a non-commercial screening is not permitted however members of a film club may pay an annual subscription / membership fee to the film club.
A college or university intending to admit members of the general public to a free film screening would probably expect to advertise outside the college or university premises to generate an audience and the appropriate licence terms would be those applicable to advertised non-commercial screenings.
Where the intention is to charge the audience and advertise publicly then the commercial screening licence terms would apply.
It is likely that one of these licences will fit the model of your film club and licence fees will vary with those for a commercial screening being the most expensive.
There are other collective licensing bodies which license showing of films in public for example The Motion Picture Licensing Corporation, the British Film Institute and British Federation of Film Societies. The institution should check what films an organisation licenses to ensure they get the correct licence for the titles they wish to show. In addition where a film is shown with the musical soundtrack a PRS licence may be needed.
For further information in setting up a film club there is useful information on the Independent Cinema office website including a helpful guide on licensing of films.
You can find general information on licences in our guide.