May we put "screeners" in the library?

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  • A patron who retired from the movie industry has donated many videos and DVDs, all of which are "academy award screeners." That is, they were distributed to people in the industry "For Your Consideration." All of them contain wording similar to not for sale or for public viewing.

    We are inclined not to put them in our collection, but would like to know if anyone has a definitive statement that clearly indicates which way to go on this matter.

    Thank you.

    Tobe Porter
    Port Orford Library in Oregon
  • While your patron is kind to think of giving to the library, my opinion is the same as yours.

    From an ethical point of view, the screeners were distributed for the sole use of movie industry members and it would not be appropriate to allow public library patrons to borrow them.

    When you consider the four factors of fair use: purpose, nature, amount, effect, I believe all four fail the fair use checklist (see link at right). The purpose violation is that the movies are for entertainment not education. The nature violation is that the works are creative not factual (I assumed this since these were potential academy award winners). The amount of the movie is all not part so that is against fair use. The effect on the market place is that neither the donator nor the library purchased these movies so that deprives the appropriate parties of proper remuneration.

    This is my opinion on this matter but I do believe this is the information you were looking to find. If anyone has another opinion please feel free to jump in.
  • I think there would be difficulties in adding these to your collection for general circulation. I don't think this is only a fair use issue per se- ordinarily, if a person were to donate movies to the library, the library can add them to their collection due to the doctrine of first sale, without looking at fair use.

    In this particular case, however, it is likely that the screener was not authorized to donate these to the library. In that case, they might not be considered lawfully acquired materials, since presumably the screener was bound by some sort of license.

    There are circumstances where it might be appropriate for your library to add this type of thing to your collection, but it would have to fit a very narrow criteria. If the DVD is or will be available for purchase commercially, then I doubt you could justify it.

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