There are many reasons an organization or individual might need to secure public performance rights: putting on a play or a musical, showing a movie to a large crowd, playing a full song at a commercial event, and more. If you are part of a student organization hoping to show a movie and wish to secure public performance rights, there are a number of organizations you can contact to do so:
There are some cases in which it is not necessary to secure these rights, though. Section 110(4) of the Copyright Act specifically allows for performances of nondramatic literary or musical works where either no admission fees are charged or any fees charged are donated to charitable, religious, or educational causes. This covers events such as poetry readings, concerts (though obtaining the rights to make multiple copies of a piece of music is another topic entirely), and more that are not broadcast on TV or radio.