If you are planning to screen/stream a film for your RSO you will need to purchase the rights for a public screening through a distributor. The only situations where you will not need to purchase the rights are outlined below.
If you are showing the film in a face to face teaching activity, it is fair use to do so, and you do not need the copyright owner's permission. You cannot show a movie for entertainment without getting a license/permission, even if you are not charging admission.
According to current law, all of the following have to be satisfied in order to avoid needing permission of the copyright holder:
- The movie must be shown by an instructor or students;
- The instructor and students must be in the same place (i.e., the instructor has to be present in the room);
- The event must be a teaching activity and not recreation or entertainment;
- The event must be put on by a nonprofit educational institution (i.e. the University);
- The event must take place in a classroom or other area used as a classroom for systematic instructional activity (i.e., not a dorm room); and
- The copy of the movie being shown must have been lawfully made (no bootleg copies).