Another public performance question

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  • Some of the staff at my library are participating in the Big Read. Our book this year has been made into a movie, and it was suggested that as part of the program, we rent the movie; watch it together - perhaps at work over a couple of lunch breaks - perhaps at someone's home; and discuss it. This rang all sorts of bells for me as a public performance, but I want to make sure that I'm not overreacting.

    Would you consider this to be a public performance? Because of licensing, if this is a public performance, would fair use even come into it?
  • I'm not sure this is a public performance, but this is a situation which should ring bells.

    According to Title 17 § 101,
    [quote]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[/quote]
    Does this count? I don't know. There has been a little case law in this area, but not enough to convince me that what constitutes a public performance has been established.

    I would argue that any staff area or area temporarily restricted to staff is not "a place open to the public." I also don't think you have "a substantial number of persons." Let's say you did this at your home; would you consider it a large gathering or a small gathering? Personally, I would consider small gatherings unsubstantial.

    Perhaps it might be better to think of a different scenario. A teenager inviting a few friends over to see a movie is unsubstantial in my opinion. A teenager throwing a party is substantial.

    Of course I don't know the details, but I suspect that your situation is one that I would consider a private performance.

    I wanted to talk about the limited case law, but I'm out of time. Here's something I copied from an earlier post:
    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."

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