Protecting the Display of Your Copyrightable Work

The Copyright Act confers upon copyright owners the right to publicly display certain types of works. This right may be claimed in literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works and in pantomimes, pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works as well as in the individual images of motion pictures and other audiovisual works.
The public display right is the right to show a copy of the work directly to the public or by means of a film, slide, or television image at a public place or displaying it on a website in order to transmit it to the public. In the case of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, showing the work’s images out of sequence may be considered “display.”

If you believe someone has displayed your Copyrightable work without your permission, please contact one of our Copyright Attorneys to discuss your legal rights.

Definition of Display

By definition, to display a work means to show a copy of it, either directly or by means of a film, slide, television image or any other device or process. A display is “public” on the same terms as a performance is “public.” Whether such acts would be an infringement would be determined by separate infringement analyses.

Copyright Infringement

To constitute an infringement, any display must be done publicly without the permission of the copyright owner. This includes displaying either the original work or a copy of the copyrighted work without the copyright owner’s permission.

Types of Work

The public display right is similar to the public performance right, except that this right controls the public “display” of a work. This right is limited to the following types of works:

literary works;

musical works;

dramatic works;

choreographic works;


pictorial works;

graphical works;

sculptural works; and

stills from motion pictures and other audio visual works.
Exemption of Certain Displays

The right to display a copyrighted work belongs to the copyright holder but it is not an absolute right because there are some exemptions. The following are not considered infringements of copyright:

A display of a work by instructors or pupils in the course of face-to-face teaching activities of a nonprofit educational institution, in a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction, unless, in the case of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, the performance or the display of individual images is given by means of a copy that was not lawfully made and the person responsible for the performance knew or had reason to believe it was not lawfully made; and

A display of a work by or in the course of a transmission if the display is a regular part of the systematic instructional activities of a governmental body or a nonprofit educational institution, the display is directly related and of material assistance to the teaching content of the transmission, and the transmission is made primarily for reception in classrooms or similar places normally devoted to instruction or reception by persons to whom the transmission is directed because their disabilities or other special circumstances prevent their attendance in classrooms or similar places normally devoted to instruction. Also, reception by officers or employees of governmental bodies as a part of their official duties or employment is not considered an infringement of copyright.