(updated November, 2023)
Showing Films in American Spaces: Screening Permission Guidelines
Film and television have long been mechanisms for promoting U.S. policy priorities and nurturing cross-cultural understanding. If your American Space is planning to screen a specific film, video, or TV program as part of an American Spaces program, the first and most important step is to ensure you have legal permissions to do so. The guidance below explains the process for identifying and screening available film titles for American Spaces to ensure they respect Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) and have legal screening permissions (or “public performance rights”) from the copyright holders, generally U.S. film distributors and/or streaming platforms. It is important to understand these permissions in order to avoid copyright violations and potential legal action.
The first step is to check if American Spaces has public performance rights to the film you want to screen via one of the licensing agreements available to American Spaces, outlined below:
Kanopy films that are part of the American Spaces eLibraryUSA collection can be screened to groups in American Spaces as long as the screening is free of charge and the film displays a Public Performance Rights “PPR” icon on its details page (included on nearly all films in Kanopy).
You can find the most updated list of films available to American Spaces by visiting the American Spaces Kanopy webpage. These films are permissible to screen even if they are not included in the ECA Motion Picture License Corporation agreement (see below), as American Spaces has purchased their public performance rights separately through Kanopy. To show an approved Kanopy film, you must log-in to eLibrary to access it.
If you are interested in a Kanopy film not currently on the American Spaces list, contact your REPS to request approval along with a justification for why the film is relevant for your programming. Once approved, the REPS will email the Office of American Spaces to request it purchase the screening license. Please note that films from HBO Documentaries are only accessible in North America and consequently will not be purchased at this time.
- BBC Studios
- Brainstorm Media
- Entertainment One Films Canada
- HBO Documentary Films
- KCMS Studio
Motion Picture Licensing Corporation (MPLC) Agreement
The State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) maintains a licensing agreement with the Motion Picture Licensing Corporation (MPLC), which provides posts and American Spaces with public performance rights for thousands of classic and contemporary films from more than 1,000 distributors. If needed, you can download a certificate of license (2023-24) issued by the MPLC that verifies the State Department’s licensing agreement.
STEP 1: Determine if the film you want to show is covered by the ECA licensing agreement that gives American Spaces public performance rights (screenings to audiences).
- Enter the title of your film(s) in the IMDb (Internet Movie Database) website.
- On the film’s IMDb page, select “All Topics” (right side, toward top of page) and then scroll down to the “Details” section and click on “Company Credits.” Then look at the sub-sections titled “Production Companies and Distributors.”
- This will bring up a list of companies that produced the film, along with a list of companies that distributed the film and where those companies distributed it. The key piece of information is to locate the company that distributed the film theatrically in the United States (you do not need to look for your own country).
- Once you have determined the film’s U.S. theatrical distributor, open the American Spaces Producer/Distributor/Studio List to cross reference and confirm if that distributor is on the approved MPLC list.
- If yes, you may procure the film. If not, you do not have rights to show the film. If you are unsure as to a film’s U.S. theatrical distributor or the information is not available on IMDb, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance, copying email@example.com.
If you have determined that the film is covered by the MPLC agreement with ECA, move to Step 2.
STEP 2: Procure an approved MPLC film
In order to show the film (in-person ONLY!), you must obtain a legally-sourced copy of it. This means that you can:
- Rent or purchase a DVD/Blu-ray from a legal vendor, either online or in a local store.
- Use a legal streaming service, such as Netflix or Hulu, if you have a subscription or have rented/purchased a legal digital copy. Please note that the streaming platform must be legally available in the country where you live. Use of a virtual private network (VPN) or any other device to evade geo-blocking in order to access a streaming platform is prohibited.
Note that commercial streaming services (i.e. Netflix, Hulu) do not offer institutional accounts; they only offer accounts for personal use, which include specific terms of agreement. These terms of agreement state that viewing is for “personal” use only and that you cannot use the streaming services for public performances. However, there are two exceptions to this rule:
- If the film is covered by ECA’s MPLC agreement giving American Spaces public performance rights, you (an official representative of American Spaces) can use your own streaming service account to screen the film for a public audience.
- Netflix has an educational license for some of its original documentaries, allowing them to be publicly screened, even if not covered by the MPLC agreement. Continue to the section below (“Netflix Educational Screening Permissions”) to learn more about this. The other streaming services do not currently offer any special educational permissions.
STEP 3: Review MPLC screening rules
In screening your MPLC film, you must follow these MPLC screening rules:
- Films covered by the MPLC agreement can only be screened live to in-person audiences; they may not be screened virtually/online.
- Films may not be recorded.
- There can be no charge for film screenings.
- The MPLC license is not transferrable. This means that a representative from post or an American Spaces Coordinator needs to be present to lead the screening. The program cannot be handed off to a student, intern, or other program host/speaker.
STEP 4: Review MPLC promotional rules
In promoting a film covered by the MPLC agreement, you must follow these MPLC rules:
- You may use a film’s artwork hosted on sanctioned sites such as IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, Fandango, a studio website and other similar sites.
- You may use U.S. Embassy and American Spaces websites, social media platforms, newsletters and email lists/invitations to advertise the screening details. You may also produce handouts about film programs that can be posted and distributed on American Spaces premises.
- You may not advertise MPLC films using artwork obtained from blogs, personal websites, personal social media accounts or non-official non-sanctioned websites.
- You may not advertise or publicize MPLC films to the general public via newspaper, radio, television or by any other public media platforms or channels.
- You may not charge admission costs.
- You may not screen clips that have been edited out of the final version of a film. If you are interested in screening clips, then the individual clips will need to be separately licensed. Posts and American Spaces staff should email MPLC@state.gov for assistance with this or other requests regarding the MPLC agreement.
Netflix Educational Screening
Netflix allows use of some Netflix Original documentaries under the Grant of Permission for Educational Screening. Available titles display a “grant of permission” on their details page on the Netflix Media Center (which cannot be accessed on OpenNet).
To find a Netflix Original documentary with a “grant of permission for educational screening,” follow these steps:
- Navigate to the Netflix Media Center
- Use the search box to locate the documentary you wish to screen
- Click on your selected title, locate the film’s Synopsis, and ensure that it contains the “GRANT OF PERMISSION FOR EDUCATIONAL SCREENING” notice. If it does not contain this notice, the title is NOT eligible for group screenings.
The Netflix Educational Screening permission allows public performance rights under certain terms outlined below:
- The use must be a one-time screening. You cannot hold screenings several times in one day or one week in the same venue. If there is interest to screen an educational Netflix title more than once, ECA must get permission from Netflix and pay licensing fees (please email MPLC@state.gov for assistance). But the first screening of a title covered under the Netflix educational license is free.
- A Netflix account holder must play the film using the Netflix service. For example, an account holder could play it on a computer using the Netflix website or on a mobile device using the Netflix app. A projector could be used to project the screen of the computer or mobile device.
- The screening must be non-profit and non-commercial. Screenings at American Spaces qualify as non-profit and non-commercial. For other uses, Netflix states: “you can’t charge admission, fundraise, solicit donations, or accept advertising or commercial sponsorships in connection with the screening. “
- Netflix states, “Please don’t use Netflix’s logos in any promotion for the screening, or do anything else that indicates that the screening is ‘official’ or endorsed by Netflix.”
Where Can Posts Screen Films?
Posts can host public screenings for audiences at U.S. Embassies, Consulates, American Centers, American Corners, and Bi-national Centers.
Can Films Be Screened Away From U.S. Government Premises?
Yes. Screenings can also be held away from U.S. Government (USG) premises, such as on a university campus, at an NGO facility and in a local theater, to highlight a few examples. Please note that screenings that take place away from USG premises must not compete with local theatrical distributors. With all screenings under the MPLC agreement, it must be clear that the screening is being presented, sponsored, organized, etc., by the U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
Who Needs to Be Present at the Film Screenings?
All screenings under the MPLC agreement must have a U.S. Embassy or Consulate Officer present to oversee the the event. An Embassy or Consulate Officer should be the first priority to oversee any MPLC screening. If all other Embassy or Consulate Officers are not able to attend a screening, then a local staff member can oversee the screening in their place. If a screening is scheduled to take place at a designated American Space located a substantial distance away from the Embassy or Consulate, then the American Space Coordinator can oversee the screening. In this scenario, a substantial distance is considered four or more hours of travel round trip. The Coordinator must provide a readout of the screening to an Embassy or Consulate Officer. In this scenario, the American Space Coordinator is only permitted to oversee a screening hosted in the designated American Space. Post cannot authorize the American Space Coordinator to oversee a screening at another non-USG location. If the designated American Space is not a substantial distance away from Post, then an available Embassy/Consulate Officer must oversee the event. If an Officer is not available, then a local staff member can oversee the screening in their place.
Can Posts Grant or Transfer MPLC Screening Rights to Another Organization?
No. Posts cannot authorize a partner organization to screen films under the MPLC agreement without a representative from the U.S. Embassy or Consulate present. This question has come up in regard to more remote communities located a substantial distance away from any U.S. Embassy, Consulate, American Space, etc. In this instance, Post cannot authorize a local contact to screen a film under the MPLC agreement. In order for audiences in more remote communities to participate in a screening under the MPLC agreement, a representative from the Embassy or Consulate must be present.
Can Posts Charge Admission to a Screening?
No. Posts may not charge admission for any public film screening.
Is There an Audience Size Limit Per Screening?
No. Films covered by the MPLC agreement may be screened for an unlimited number of persons per screening.
Is There a Limit to the Number of Screenings?
No. There is no limit to the number of screenings post can organize. Posts may also screen the same film without a limit to the number of screenings.
Where Can Copies of Films Be Obtained?
Films available on home video, DVD or via a streaming format are permissible for screening purposes. All films must be legally sourced. Home videos and DVDs must be purchased from a legal vendor, whether they be from a brick and mortar location or online. Films streamed or downloaded must be done through legally recognized sources such as Amazon Prime, Hulu, iTunes, Netflix, etc. If a post decides to stream a film, the streaming provider must have a legally recognized presence in that country. If a post wishes to stream a film from a provider that does not have a legal presence to operate within the country, employing the use of a virtual private network (VPN), or any other device to evade geo-blocking, is in violation of the MPLC agreement.
Can Edited Copies of Films Be Screened?
No. Edited copies, such as airplane version of films, are not covered by the MPLC agreement.
Are Digital Cinema Package (DCP) Copies of Films Covered by the MPLC Agreement?
No. The licensing agreement does not cover DCP copies of films. A post would have to pay for the DCP copy of the film to be created, as well as for a separate licensing agreement. DCP costs vary, depending upon such factors as the distributor and the type of film being requested (feature, documentary, new release, etc.). However, a DCP copy of a typical feature film can cost anywhere from $500 to $1,000. If a post is interested to acquire a DCP copy of a film, please email MPLC@state.gov with this request.
Is Use of Official Artwork Covered by the MPLC Agreement?
Yes. The use of official artwork is allowed for the purposes of promoting a screening. Official artwork includes the film’s poster, artwork available for download from the film’s official website and artwork hosted on sanctioned sites such as IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, a studio website and other similar sites. Artwork hosted on or obtained from blogs, personal websites, personal social media accounts or through other non-sanctioned websites is prohibited. Please note that the alteration of artwork in any way is prohibited. This includes the removal of any copy from the artwork, as well as adding screening information over a film poster, still or other related artwork.
Can Films Dubbed into Another Language Be Screened?
Yes. Films that have been legally dubbed in another language may be used for screening purposes.
Can Films Be Modified, Dubbed or Subtitled by a Post?
No. Films may not be duplicated, edited or modified in any way without the explicit permission of the film’s producer. This includes subtitling or dubbing the film into another language. The MPLC license cannot grant this right.
How Can a Post Request a Film to Be Subtitled in a Language Not Currently Available?
Posts must request permission and negotiate to subtitle directly with the film’s producer. ECA can provide producer contacts to posts. Please note that typical subtitling costs are approximately $8.00 per minute. Additional fees for script translation and to create a new file of the film typically apply, as well. This means that one feature-length film can cost several thousand dollars. Apart from being costly, this type of request is also time-consuming and takes months to fulfill, if the producer even agrees to take on the request. Finally, these requests are difficult to put forward. It is not a straightforward process. Therefore, if a post is interested to have a film subtitled, there needs to be a total upfront commitment to the cost and time associated with this type of request.
Can Film Screenings Be Advertised?
Film titles, characters, producers, directors, actors, images or anything else directly associated with the film cannot be advertised or publicized to the general public via newspaper, radio, television or by any other public platforms. Please note that these promotional restrictions are per studio requirements and are not imposed by the MPLC.
(AS) However, U.S. Embassy and American Spaces websites, U.S. Embassy and American Spaces social media platforms, U.S. Embassy and American Spaces newsletters and email mailing lists may be used to advertise the details of a screening. Handouts about film programs may also be posted and distributed on American Spaces premises.
Can Post Screenings be Advertised by Non-U.S. Government Organizations?
No. When a post sponsors a screening to be part of a local film festival or to be held at a non-U.S. government location, those partner organizations are not permitted to advertise the film being screened in any way. This includes referencing the film’s title, director, actors, plot, etc. Please note that these promotional restrictions are per studio requirements and are not imposed by the MPLC.
However, non-U.S. government organizations are permitted to use generic language describing the fact that a post is sponsoring a screening, which can include a link to post’s website or social media platforms with more specific information. Additionally, partner organizations cannot retweet or repost promotional content from the embassy’s or consulate’s online platforms that directly reference the film being screened. It is strongly recommended that this point about no advertising be clearly and thoroughly communicated to non-U.S. government organizations.
Are PBS Films Covered by the MPLC Agreement?
No, PBS films are not covered by the MPLC agreement. However, PBS does allow titles designated as “AV Item” to be screened under a limited public performance rights. This means that AV item films may be shown in a classroom or screened by a public group for educational purposes when no admission is charged for the viewing. Screenings of AV item designated films may be transmitted on a closed-circuit system within a building or single campus. In order for this film to be screened under PBS’ limited public performance rights, the film must be purchased through teacher.shop.pbs.org and be marked “AV Item.” The film cannot be purchased through any other channel and still be covered under PBS limited public performance rights. This purchase does not permit a post to duplicate or alter the program for any purpose, to distribute the program through any wide access network (internet, open cable, open broadcast, LAN, satellite, telco, etc.), or to digitize, encode and/or place the program on a digital server.
Are Film Clips Covered Under the MPLC Agreement?
No. The MPLC licensing agreement does not cover the screening of clips that have been edited out of the final version of a film and hosted on a website such as YouTube or Fandango. This applies to clips that originate from MPLC covered films. The reason screening clips is not permitted is because once they are in clip form, the MPLC agreement defines them to be in an altered format from the film’s original version. Even though clips are fractions of films, the license is not transferable from one format to the other. If Post is interested to screen a clip, or a series of clips, then those individual clips will need to be separately licensed. Please email MPLC@state.gov for assistance with this request. If clips have been legally licensed and uploaded to a website, such as Fandango, Post should confirm whether or not that licensing agreement covers the use of said clips for the purposes of supporting U.S. public diplomacy overseas programming. Please email MPLC@state.gov for further assistance.
Please send any MPLC-related questions to MPLC@state.gov