video use in library

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  • A public library has a some 25" TV monitors in the library with DVD players attached and allows people to watch library videos while in the library. The videos aren't even checked out--the patrons just pull them from the shelves and pop them into the players. They are out on the library floor--not in study rooms. I told the director that this might constitute a public performance, and that use of the study rooms still might not constitute private home use. Am I too uptight about the use restriction on the commercial, entertainment films?
  • You are not too uptight to ask the question. If your library is taking the position that this situation is not a public performance, your director should be able to articulate why.

    This is from Title 17, Chapter 1:
    To perform or display a work "publicly" means--
    (1) to perform or display it at a place open to the public or at any place where a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of a family and its social acquaintances is gathered; or
    (2) to transmit or otherwise communicate a performance or display of the work to a place specified by clause (1) or to the public, by means of any device or process, whether the members of the public capable of receiving the performance or display receive it in the same place or in separate places and at the same time or at different times.

    You could interpret this very literally, which would mean that any performance "at a place open to the public" is a public performance. I don't believe Congress intended this interpretation.

    Is an actor using a library study room to practice a monologue with no audience performing publicly? Is a person listening to a song on an iPod while riding the bus performing publicly? Is a person looking at the paintings in an art book while sitting on a park bench displaying works publicly?

    Of course a judge could disagree, but I would hope that the courts would conside alll of these situations as private performances or displays that happen to occur in public places.

    What about your situation? If the audio is private, I would consider this a private performance in a public space.

    Does a study room change the situation? It could make the situation worse. In Columbia Pictures (and others) v. Redd Horne, the court determined that public performances were occuring within a movie rental store with in-store viewing rooms (2-4 occupants per room, fee based on number of occupants). However, this decision was "based on the view that the viewing rooms at Maxwell's more closely resemble mini-movie theaters than living rooms away from home."

    I hope that helps. We aren't getting a lot of traffic right now, but it's certainly possible that another poster might offer an alternative view in a few days.
  • Whenever we talk about the public performance right, we should remember that it is subject to several major exceptions in section 110. It is not clear to me if either 110(4) or 110(5) would help with this situation, but they are worth considering.
  • I don't think 110(4) would be helpful because it refers to "live" performances (not transmitted ones). And I don't think 110(5) will work either because I think that language about "a receiving apparatus of a kind commonly used in private homes" is referring to television and radio (not a DVD player) - on the other hand, with the advancement of technology, DVD players are "commonly used in private homes," so this is tricky. I think the intent was to not hold liable a person who happened to turn on a TV in a public place.
  • Yeah, but you know what they say about intent...

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