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Using Audiovisual Materials at U of T

Student groups and societies who have either already screened or may be planning to screen movies as part of their group's activities should be aware of parameters in which they are legally permitted to present these materials at the University of Toronto.

As stated in the Policy on the Recognition of Campus Groups, the University will not attempt to censor, control or interfere with any group on the basis of its philosophy, beliefs, interests or opinions expressed unless and until these lead to activities which are illegal. By the same token, recognition as a “campus group” by the University implies neither endorsement of a particular group’s beliefs or philosophy, nor the assumption of legal liability for the group’s activities.

It is important that any group or society screening a movie as part of its activities ensure that it is doing so legally. The law in this area is complex, and has evolved with changes to the Copyright Act and in the jurisprudence.

While each group or society needs to take its own steps to ensure compliance with the law, the University thought it would be helpful to provide some general guidance that could be utilized by groups, societies and others as they saw fit. Accordingly, it obtained legal advice on the application of copyright law to the showing of audiovisual works on campus.

As a general principle, where a movie, television program, or other audiovisual material is shown in a public setting on campus – even in a classroom – a licence will be required unless the showing is for education and training purposes (or where ‘fair dealing’ may apply for other allowable purposes). If the showing is for educational and training purposes, it may be subject to an exception in the Copyright Act, provided that other specific statutory requirements are met.

We also note that the University does not have a “blanket” licence that covers screenings for student groups and societies. Where a licence is required, it is the responsibility of the individual groups themselves to obtain one.

Below is a list of frequently asked questions related to movie licensing. For further background on movie licensing on campus, please refer to the following website:

Frequently Asked Questions

For one of my classes, I have to provide a presentation to my instructor and classmates. Do I need a licence to show a scene from a movie or TV show as part of my presentation? 

No. If the performance takes place in your classroom and is presented primarily to University students or instructors for educational purposes, and the copy of the movie or TV show was not obtained from an unlawful source, you do not need to obtain permission from the copyright owner. 


I live on campus and would like to watch a movie or TV show with my floor mates in the common area. Do I need a licence? 

As long as the showing is “private” (that is, essentially limited to your private circle of friends or floor mates) you should not need a licence. However, if you advertise the showing or invite a wider audience that could not reasonably be understood to be private, different considerations may apply and a licence may be required. 


I am a member of a student organization or association. Do I need to obtain a licence to show a movie at an on-campus movie night for students and charge an admission fee? 

Yes. Even if the audience is limited to students of the University, the event is being held for recreational purposes, not for educational or training, and a licence is therefore required. Charging an admission fee may also mean that the use is “for profit” or with a “motive of gain”, a further bar to reliance on the educational exceptions in the Copyright Act – especially if the total fees received are greater than the costs (including overhead) of the holding event. 


What if I don’t charge an admission fee for the movie night? 

Even if the event is “not for profit” and without “motive of gain”, the movie is being shown for recreational purposes, not for education or training, and a licence will still be required. 

What if the movie I plan to show was released more than 50 years ago?


The term of copyright is determined by reference to the life of the author, not the release or publication of the work. Copyright subsists for the life of the author plus 50 years. Identifying the “author” of an audiovisual work is not always easy, since many people (director, screenwriter, producer, etc.) will have contributed to it. In any event, copyright in a movie or TV show will usually last considerably longer than 50 years after its initial release. Contact the Student Life Department on your campus for more information. (Contact information is below.) 


Do I need a licence to show a movie to fellow members of my student organization to facilitate debate and discussion within our group?

It is possible that a movie shown by a student group to its members to facilitate educational debate and discussion within the group (for example, a documentary about discrimination shown by a LGBTQ club to an audience consisting only of its members, without charging admission) might constitute fair dealing for the purposes of education, research or private study, but that would depend on the particular facts of the case. Consult for further information.


I would like to organize a social event for students and members of the public that will include showing a movie or TV show, either for a fee or for free. Do I need to obtain a licence? 

Yes. Because the social event is not primarily for University students, and the showing is for recreational purposes rather than for education or training, a licence will be required. It makes no difference whether or not an admission fee is charged. 


I would like to organize an event at which short excerpts from various movies and TV shows are shown on multiple screens for ambience. Do I need a licence? 

It depends on whether the excerpts you plan to show are “substantial arts” of the larger works. You should not presume that even short excerpts of a long movie are not “substantial” – this is a question of fact that needs to be assessed on a case-by-case basis and may require expert advice. Contact the Student Life Department on your campus for assistance before you proceed. (Contact information is below.) 


Student Life Contact Information: 

University of Toronto Mississauga

University of Toronto Scarborough

University of Toronto St. George

Sako Khederlarian 

Student Engagement Coordinator, Student Organizations & Outreach, Centre for Student Engagement



Jonathan Collaton

Coordinator, Campus Life and Special Events, Department of Student Life 


Jennifer Galley

Student Life Officer, Clubs & Leadership Development, Student & Campus Community Development 

(416) 946-7786