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TOPIC: Permissions to play DVDs to public?

Re: Permissions to play DVDs to public? 27 May 2004 11:32 #8280

  • Reel-Life
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Would a doctors office be considered public. They play movies in doctor's offices that I take my kids to, and we are paying for the doctor visit.
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Re: Permissions to play DVDs to public? 27 May 2004 11:53 #8281

  • criterion
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I started a thread for this topic a couple of months ago at film-tech, it's fairly lengthy and they brought up a lot of good points... take a look: Legal? Showing DVDs for free?[\url].

Hope that helps.
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Re: Permissions to play DVDs to public? 27 May 2004 11:54 #8282

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BB Code didn't parse the url correctly... the url is:
http://www.film-tech.com/cgi-bin/ubb/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=5;t=001105
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Re: Permissions to play DVDs to public? 27 May 2004 12:56 #8283

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BB Code didn't parse the url correctly... the url is:
http://www.film-tech.com/cgi-bin/ubb/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=5;t=001105
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Re: Permissions to play DVDs to public? 27 May 2004 16:10 #8284

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Very interesting read over there on film-tech. Thanks for the link. I found these quotes to be the most pertinent:

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial, helvetica">quote:</font><HR>
Copyright Law of the United States of America
and Related Laws Contained in Title 17 of the United States Code

Circular 92
Chapter 1
Subject Matter and Scope of Copyright

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.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
Virtually every auditorium, classroom, meeting room, and dorm lounge on the campus is to be considered a public place, so screening a video there is considered a public performance. Where the place of performance is not open to the public (Like your dorm room, where the public can be excluded), and every one there was your friend, the performance would most likely not be considered as public and you would be legal.
I've a friend who owns a dinner cruise biz and he was slapped many years ago for playing CD's as patrons boarded the boat to head out for a publicly advertised sail and dinner. ...By the way, if it was a charter, they could play whatever they wanted as that was a private function.

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial, helvetica">quote:</font><HR>This is what a few DVD's state on the back of their packages.

WARNING: For Private home use only. Unauthorized public performance, broadcast or copying is a violation of applicable laws.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial, helvetica">quote:</font><HR>Here is a warning from MGM from the back of a DVD.

Warning: The copyright owner has licensed the film (including the soundtrack) comprised in this DVD for home use only. All other rights are reserved. The definition of home use excludes the use of this DVD at locations such as clubs, buses, hospitals, hotels, oil rigs, prisons and schools. Any unauthorised coping, editing, exhibition, public performance diffusion and/or broadcast of this DVD or any part thereof is strictly prohibited and any such action estabishes libility for such civil action and may give rise to criminal prosecution.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

So what I can gather from that is this still is clear as mud. If the space is rented out for a private party of, say, no more than 30 people (which should NOT be a "substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of a family and its social acquaintances"), and it's not advertised, does that still violate the copyright because it's technically not in a "home"?

All said, it's an interesting debate. I think I'll need to make some phone calls. There were a few listed in that post that I had not thought/heard of.

[This message has been edited by mosquito (edited May 27, 2004).]
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Re: Permissions to play DVDs to public? 27 May 2004 16:22 #8285

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Be sure you post your findings back here!
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Re: Permissions to play DVDs to public? 28 May 2004 11:09 #8286

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"Would a doctors office be considered public. They play movies in doctor's offices that I take my kids to, and we are paying for the doctor visit."


That you pay the doctor isn't the point.

The doctor is using the movies to provide a distraction... an atmosphere... something to make the wait more pleasant so, if all else is positive, you might find the experience (relatively) pleasant and return as a customer. In other words, the doctor is using the creative product of others in order to promote his business and personal income. If he has not licensed the use of that product, he is using the work of others without compensating them for their product.

In that sense, the use of a video is much like background music in a restaurant, mall or theatre. It becomes an ingredient... part of the total picture, but still important enough in the user's mind that he thinks he needs it. In the context you mention, the performance is still "public" and subject to copyright law.

In many cases, even using this material in a non-profit or free environment can still violate the rights of the copyright holder, because it can probably be said that you're benefitting in some way, even if it isn't purely financial.

I think the doctor could use public domain materials, though the kids' shows you're referring to probably don't fall into that category.


... from Mosquito:
"So what I can gather from that is this still is clear as mud. If the space is rented out for a private party of, say, no more than 30 people (which should NOT be a "substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of a family and its social acquaintances"), and it's not advertised, does that still violate the copyright because it's technically not in a "home"?"


Well, you are RENTING a space, so there's a financial component there. You are using the movie as an ingredient to attract the 30 people that will be attending. Matter of fact, the movie appears to be the main reason for the event, though that wouldn't necessarily be the case. Finally, you're doing all this without compensating the owner of the work (the movie). If I spent my money and time to create and distribute a product, only to find that you were using my efforts to entertain a group larger than you'd normally put in an average family living room, I'd probably get pretty interested in your activities, too.

That quote about the "private charter" doesn't clear the issue of copyright. They were still using the DVDs as part of the total picture... just like the background music coming out of their ceiling speakers or the band in the corner. That work belongs to someone, and they reasonably expect to be paid when someone uses it to their benefit, regardless how small that benefit might be. The person who organized the charter felt that it would be less of an experience without the DVD... just as a silent auditorium or restaurant is less comfortable without some ambient sound to support the environment. Whoever created that environment probably didn't get into the business for purely philanthropic reasons!

[This message has been edited by rodeojack (edited May 28, 2004).]
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Re: Permissions to play DVDs to public? 28 May 2004 14:57 #8287

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rodeojack - I can't argue with your claims...I think you're exactly right on in terms of making sure that the creator of the product gets what they deserve. Like I said before, I'm really not trying to circumvent that.

It's just that the studios and others seem to throw these copyright threats out there, but there is very little definition around it. The fact of the matter is, if a person were to get caught up in a legal issue around this, they would have a very small chance to survive against Bugs' and Mickey's pocket books. So doing the homework ahead of time can save some real frustration in the end.

In my mind, this all comes down to two questions. Is a special license needed to dispay a copyrighted DVD in a space outside of a "home", even though it may not be open to the public at large? And if a license is needed, who is liable for the licensing?

Again, this is all hypothetical, but let's say that I just have a space and there are some seats, a dvd player and a projector in it. Since the space is just a space, I can feel free to rent it out to whomever I want. Does the fact that there is a dvd player and a projector in that space mean that I, as the owner of the space, must assume that the renter is going to play a copyrighted DVD on the rented equipment? If so, is it my responsibility to secure the proper license for showing a DVD even though the renter of the space is the actual owner of the DVD? And then would I have to enforce that the renter of the space is only playing the DVD that was licensed? What would happen if they popped in another one? Am I liable for that?

I planning to take some time next week to track some of this down. While I realize that a lot of you here (myself included) like to show and watch film on the big screen, there seem to be some opportunities coming up with the latest technology to kind of reach outside the box and possibly pull in some revenue from other sources.

[This message has been edited by mosquito (edited May 28, 2004).]
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Re: Permissions to play DVDs to public? 28 May 2004 19:31 #8288

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Mosquito, stop. Take a breath and understand the following. If you want to exhibit a film, regardless of the way it's exhibited; permission, rights, or licensing by way of a fee, will have to be paid to the owner of the exhibition rights. Virtually every film made in the past 30 years, have exhibition rights attached and yes, you'll have to pay them. Someone has to pay them. If you provide the space and the projector, speakers and screen, then obviously, you expect them to be used to exhibit films. DVDs are not made to be projected outside of a home setting. EVERYTIME someone screens a DVD outside of a HOME, exhibition rights MUST be paid. That's EVERYTIME. No exceptions, period, and anything less constitutes theft. The fees are not so tough as to warrant not paying them. In short, regardless of the method of screening a work; regardless of how large a group; regardless of whether admission or any other fee is charged or donated by the patrons; regardless if it's a free screening; a fee for screening the work is due the holder of exhibition rights, whether it's deemed to be "theatrical" or "non-theatrical."

Ya gots to pay.

And one last comment. One owns a DVD. One does not own the film recorded on it.
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Re: Permissions to play DVDs to public? 28 May 2004 21:00 #8289

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I'll be sure to put a check in the mail to New Line before I take my new LOTR: Return of the King over to my friend's house to watch it.
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Re: Permissions to play DVDs to public? 30 May 2004 00:18 #8290

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<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial, helvetica">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by coryray:
<B>If you want to exhibit a film, regardless of the way it's exhibited; permission, rights, or licensing by way of a fee, will have to be paid to the owner of the exhibition rights.

...

Ya gots to pay.</B><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

If you can't tell, I'm really trying to play devil's advocate here in a lot of what I've posted. I'd be stupid to expect that I wouldn't have to get a license of some sort. But again, it's a very muddy area of the biz, so the effort will not be for naught if it results in some clearer definition around it.

So, operating under the assumption that I would secure the proper licensing for a predetermined DVD of the renter's choice, what happens when they actually start showing a different DVD? Am I liable for securing the license for that movie after the fact? Or do I need to monitor the theater at all times and stop the showing of the DVD? You can probably see where I'm headed with this....Since I secured the license for the DVD that they should be showing, does that clear me from any liability if somehow the copyright owner of the DVD that wasn't intended for show discovered that some Joe Nobody was playing it for 20 other people in my rented theater?

Thanks for everyone's replies, BTW!
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Re: Permissions to play DVDs to public? 30 May 2004 06:39 #8291

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All of the replies here may sound hypothetical, but it won't be if the agent of the copyright owner finds out that an UNauthorized showing/hearing of his work(s) took place. Don't anyone fool himself: the courts have taken the 1984 Copright law very seriously and there are stiff penalities for violating it! If Mosquito or anyone is serious about showing a commercial DVD or ANYTHING similar ANYWHERE, without explicit WRITTEN approval, he can easily risk going to jail. Someone in the business cannot argue ignorance or even negligence to a court and get away with it. The court by precedent of law presumes that one in the business knows business law, and will therefore regard any violation as intentional, and assess punitive damages, which can include jail time in some cases. Don't play with fire: hire an attorney specializing in Copyright Law and get sound legal advice.

The comparison to background music is valid: Muzak and any other commercial supplier of same PAYS royalities under a blanket licnese to the Copyright Clearance Office of the Library of Congress according to law, and would not dare to do otherwise. True, if they only played Classical music by long-dead composers they would regard the music as in the Public Domain, which it is, BUT the performers of the music almost certainly have a legal standing since ALL forms of recording have existed since the passing of the original Copyright law back at the turn of the century; there is no way to avoid a penalty unless you have legitimate, written permission to play outside of your OWN home someone else's performance. Even karoke, which involves your own 'performance' is still covered by the copyright law. There are books at any public library about this law and how it is enforced (prosecution under which can take place YEARS after any infraction is revealed!), and the Library of Congress' office has booklets to show the law and how to follow it. Many distributors/owners of copyrights do allow for certain classes of non-profits to show their works IF the proper form is filled out and filed with the Copyright Clearance Office BEFORE any event takes place. Be wise and fill out the stupid form and save yourself a LOT of hassle, whether or not you merely own the place of exhibition, or are the primary sponsor of the event (the Motion Pictures producers assoc. employes people across the country to secretly inform them of any UNauthorized display of their product, as Jack Valenti has publically stated; it is profitable for your neighbor to inform on you!). No court will accept the "But I didn't know what was going on!" claim of any site owner/operator. There is NO legally 'free ground' outside of a private home; any competent prosecuting attorney will find anyone and everyone connected to an event and sue the daylights out of them since that is how he gets the most 'deep pockets' to justify his high fee. Expect no mercy, since you will receive none. Consult an attorney!

For those who rent out their facilities, where it is possible for someone to slip in a DVD or other source of copyrighted product, be SURE that your WRITTEN agreement/lease SPECIFICALLY states that any and all performances will be suitably secured by the renter under applicable Copyright Law, and that the renter/leasee thereby indemnifies and holds harmless the owner/operator/rentor of the facility against any copyright infringement claims. This is standard 'boilerplate' language in most such leases, but be sure that it is there to protect yourself, and, better yet, have it vetted (approved) by your own local attorney to be sure it meets local as well as state and national case law, as opposed to merely statute law. Remember that any prosecuting attorney will seek to evade such a contract/lease since he knows about such language, and is trying to find as many deep pockets as possible, and if he can convince a court that you really knew that the copyright would be violated, and that you were therefore tacitly involved, the court may well declare your contract/lease to be void in any defense of this nature. Yes, the court may allow you to turn around and sue the lessee, but that is 'pie in the sky' as far as you are concerned, since even if you got a judgement against the leassee, he may have no real assets to attach to repay the penalities the first court action found against you, the landlord. And a judgement against your renter helps you not at all if he declares bankruptcy following or during your judgement against him, which is what his attorney will tell him to do. You can't win if you yourself place yourself in jepordy.

[This message has been edited by jimor (edited May 30, 2004).]
Jim R. (new E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ) member: www.HistoricTheatres.org
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Re: Permissions to play DVDs to public? 30 May 2004 13:23 #8292

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Mosquito... I realize you're taking the devil's advocate role here... but I think we're heading to the point of diminishing returns. What you're asking in your last post is really a common sense issue, if you understand the explanations on this subject that have been posted by others here.

Whether the idea that licensing one DVD then substituting another makes sense from the exhibitor's standpoint is a curious argument to get into a debate about. At the very least, you've got a violation of your contract with the owner of the DVD content... even if it's the same owner. You didn't do what you agreed to, so why would I want to do business with you? your integrity is questionable, and I'm not interested in babysitting you.

You could be hauled into court, where you might be able to make a "zero net" argument... I don't know. However, I seriously doubt that it would be to your financial benefit to test it... the lawyers always seem to win in these cases... and it would likely mean you'd have a tough time license anything in the future... you'd be too much trouble to deal with.
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Re: Permissions to play DVDs to public? 30 May 2004 19:01 #8293

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Until you've had ASCAP walk in and nail you for playing music without a lisc and the only alternative is to get one or shut down the musice you don't appreciate the power of the content ownership. It's fine if you don't care when they slap you around and you just stop. But if your business revolves around it and you make a living by trying to sneak by the movie police you are cruising for a serious bruisin'. When they come down on you: it hurts and there is no way around it. On the other hand: if someone had a quiet bar would they pop in a DVD? Yep they would. And until they got nailed : which is probably never ......they'd be fine.

For the life of me I cannot understand why they don't nail DVD bootleg sellers on the street or flea markets.

Out in Las Vegas you can buy armloads of the knock off DVD stuff at flea markets. Why not do a mass bust the week of Sho West just to show the flag!



Michael Hurley
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Re: Permissions to play DVDs to public? 30 May 2004 21:08 #8294

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Boy, I'm with you there, Mike. It's pretty frustrating, getting the evil-eye treatment when we go to screenings.... like there's a bunch of rabid owners and bookers out there, smuggling cameras into these shows, so we can torpedo our own business... ack!
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