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Discussion Starter #1
Does anybody know what the legal rules are for DVD viewing? Clearly, a purchased DVD can be viewed at home in a home theater.


In a large (say 20 seats) home theater, several people can view it and I suppose even be charged for it - Certainly there can't be restrictions on whether you know the people or not.


There are some club house home theaters now showing DVDs to club members - Apartment complexes with internal theaters for residents use. If the club house buys the DVD, then rents or provides it for member parties to view, is there a problem?


anybody know the legal rules of engagement?



thanks

ken
 

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I'm not an expert, and I'm certainly not a lawyer, but....


As soon as you start charging admission to view copyrighted material in a theater (whether you term it as home, art-house, club-house, or whatever), you have entered the commercial arena.


I realize that there may be some clubs that have membership fees and then share copyrighted material, but I'm sure there are business laws which address that area as well. Otherwise, people would make clubs for every pseudo-business activity to avoid business and government regulation, contractual obligations, and avoid copyright laws. Short of getting a lawyer to help you understand the business laws regulating this activity, the only suggestion I can give you is to check out the trade magazine that focuses on the film and theater business: BOXOFFICE Magazine


I'm not trying to be a pill, but I think legally there are many pitfalls and obligations involved when charging membership fees or admission to a theater to watch DVD copyrighted material. -Pat
 

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I'd have to agree with paddy. Instead, charge a premium for drinks or treats with a minimum consumption policy :D
 

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Discussion Starter #4
So are we saying:

That if you had an Apartment or Association or Club House with a mini-theater that didn't charge for viewing, but was supported with Association dues or other general funding from the residence/members there would be no problem showing Association owned DVDs to those residence?


That's the way I see it personally, but I wanted to get some other opinions.


Man E - great idea! Of course that's what film theaters do now I suppose. I'm sure without the concessions, they would be out of business!


ken
 

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Quote:
So are we saying...
I'm saying lawyers know this stuff. Maybe there is one lurking here in the forum who could answer. The reason I am interested in the topic, is that I was thinking of starting such a DVD club membership theater. That's when I realized that there was more to the legal side of this than I wanted to realize.


And, on a side note concerning trying to make money from the concessions to avoid the obligation of giving ticket receipt money to the copyright holder, which I also considered, you should know this. I found out that Drive-in's used to try this tactic, since almost the entire profitability of the Drive-in is in the concession (true for movie houses these days also). Drive-in's would offer a one price per car to get families into the theater, and then hope to make money on the concessions. Disney figured this out, and then required (by contract) that any Drive-in showing their films had to charge for every occupant of the vehicle, including each child. I also found out that Disney then took 90-95% of the price of every ticket sold at the Drive-in. This forced Drive-in's to heavily market their concession service in order to survive. -Pat
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Pat-

Good thoughts - thanks for the reply.


Seems like Disney and other studios would be in a very weak position regarding small, 'private' (or restricted) theaters to enforce any kind of 'license per viewer' of a purchased (permanent) DVD license.


Especially if there is no direct charge for viewing. The supporting charges would be via Association dues or Club Dues which are required for membership and access regardless of whether any viewing takes place. These due are in turn used to purchase the permanent DVD licenses for random on-demand viewing by the members.


It would be virtually impossible to prevent say a neighborhood of people from pooling money for the purchase of DVDs that are shared; whether shared at one site or between them.


Also, I wonder the position regarding a Sports Bar or other showing purchased DVDs (without charge). I've seen this quite a bit already, just as they share one satellite system for many viewers of PPV events - one payment, multiple viewers.


Seems like one could successfully argue that once the license is purchased from the studio, then the business of providing facilities for multiple person viewing is out of their hands and in fact a different business. Certainly, virtually impossible to enforce as they did with the theaters in your example.


Certainly DVDs aren't priced on a 'one-person, one-view' basis. It takes 3 trips to the movies to cover a typical $21 DVD purchase (without the concessions). The difference is that the DVD purchaser has to provide the facility for viewing the DVD.


If a business invests in equipment and environment for viewing... seems like that's not part of the studio's control regime; once it offers a market driven exchange for a physical ownership, user-controlled, permanent DVD license.


Any lawyers in the house?


ken
 

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Like has been itterated over before.... if you are using copyrighted materal in a commercial setting get a laywer first to approve the setting.


At the university I attended they rented movies from the local blockbuster, but still had to pay a broadcast fee to show the movies over the local cable network.


fortunatly most of these things have already been hashed over so many times a quick call to a copyright laywer should get you an answer.
 

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I agree with your premise of pooling money to share DVD's, but I doubt that the MPAA would agree. I'm sure their lawyers would argue against it.


With regard to Sports Bars, there are stipulations concerning pay per view events. In fact, in my community, the Sports Bar has to pay a SUBSTANTIALLY higher Pay Per View price for the event, because the provider knows that many people are not paying for the event at their home and are instead going to a bar to watch the event. This happens a lot here when our NBA team is in the playoffs. So, the provider charges the Sports Bar, sometimes in the $1000's, to show something that you could watch at home for $4.95


-Pat
 

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I'm not a lawyer, though I sometimes watch them on TV.


But I did read a book on digital copyright law. I came away with the impression that no one, not even the lawyers, understands intellectual property law.


But one thing did stick in my mind. Clubs and small business owners often do not believe the law and so come up with various gimmicks, loopholes, and exceptions to the stupid law so they don't have to pay the IP holders.


And they are threatened, hauled into court, and almost always lose. The IP holders are better at this game.


- Tom
 

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Yes, trbarry is right - the copyright law is a huge maze of twisty little passages. It was also written by the copyright industry and mostly rubberstamped into law by our duly elected representatives. You can be sure that the law is written entirely in the favor of the copyright industry and designed to maximize their revenue. Don't fool yourself into court.
 

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Even the subscriptions for satellite TV in sports bars is higher (for NFL Sunday Ticket and NHL Center Ice, for example). There are separate residential and commercial subscriptions for these and all of the regular slate of programming.


Legally, you are probably out of luck. However, if you are not an actual business (not incorporated, etc.) you probably will "get away" with it.


So if you are doing it in a home theater (and not breaking any local zoning bylaws about running a business out of your home), then your are not really entering the commercial realm and should be fine.


Like if I was to invite a bunch of people over for a BBQ and charge them for the food, and just happen to be showing a movie in the home theater.


It all comes down to what is a commercial enterprise vs private viewing. If you are trying to make money doing this, it's illegal. If your trying to cover the costs, excluding the intellectual property costs, your probably okay.


Of course, contacting a lawyer is the best way to confirm this.
 

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While I'm not a lawyer I am a video store owner for the last 16+ years. I will tell you that the MPAA is cracking down harder than ever on copyright violations. There have been quite a few cases of late where people have been brought to court over the same ideas as you have. Not to be a prude or anything, but I think rightfully so. It is no different than borrowing your buddies software and using it and not paying for it. These movies are intended for your personal use and I think You would be wise to "pay the piper" if you intend to make a profit with them.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Interesting comments. The thrust seems to be if you're making money, then it wouldn'y be allowed; but if not then it's no-man's-land.


The examples I'm most curious about are those that don't seek to make money and are not commercial enterprises at all.


These would be like Apartment complexes, residential development associations, etc.


Many of them have had a room for 'Movie-night' where an association rented or purchased video-tape (now DVD) is played for the tenants OR any tenant can bring their own to play with a group of people.


No money exchange, it's simply an amenity for those residence who live there and of course pay their association dues. These dues, in some cases are used to purchase a library of available DVDs.


This seems to meet the copyright criteria on about every front.

No commercial entity;

no entity 'making money';

A private viewing - A resident must be present;

As an amenity, a 'Theater' is provided for residents to view Asssociation DVDs or bring their own.


Not exhaustive, but I've checked with one Copyright lawer who tells me this one is undefined, but admits it would be a difficult case for copyright owners to make.


The difference being that there are significant differences between selling a DVD and even PPV. Although the material is copyrighted, it is sold on a format for personal and personal-group viewing - where by virtue of the agreed media, the copyright owner gives up the right to control the location (not the circumstance) and the number of times and the number of viewers. There is a difference is controlling the location of viewing and the circumstances. Circumstances can be controlled by precedent rulings (open public bars making commercial enterprise on the viewing); but to control the location of proper circustance (private group viewing is proper) is nearly impossible to control since the agreed madia purchase is by nature designed to be location independent.


According to one opinion, it hasn't been established that the copyright owner can control the location of viewing (restricting it to a home for example) - No could they successfully extend copyright control to actually control or restrict location of viewing, as long as it's a private group, without commercial viability - basicly this would have to provide that they could dictate that a private 'Movie-Party' could only take place in a home! Not a very good argument for a copyright owner.


This is what I'm told is the difference in the example used by poster -tiptoen- (I asked the same question relative to software). Borrowing a friends software and using it IS a violation of copyright for software, since it's licensed for one USE at a time and of course the use of it requires it be 'copied' onto the another computer (allowed only for one user's laptop).


I'm told borrowing a friends DVD and viewing it, is not a violation since 1) there is no copying - the media itself restricts to one viewing at a time and 2) this is considered still protected under fair use. Nor is viewing by more than one person intrinsically a violation, as long as there is not a general-public commercial intent. - again the actual physical location of the private-group viewing is prbably not restrictable.


I want to do some checking with other attorneys; I'm told the more opinions I get, the better, since it's so fuzzy for the case I propose - no known precedent.


Anyway - pretty interesting.



ken
 

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You may consider that the purchase or rental of a video is a license for the private viewer. Once you gather a group of people, for whatever reason, it is considered a public viewing. This would apply at a school, library, bar, or someones home. There is a big difference between Aunt Martha and Grandma coming over and 20 "friends" in the neighborhood or apartment building. If someone had such a party once and again I think there would be no problems. I can tell you for sure that if a local vender that sold or rented product found that you made a habit of it, they would most likely report you to the MPAA. Trust me, the MPAA would be there in a very short period of time. They have deep pockets and I for one wouldn't want to challenge them.
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by tiptoen

Trust me, the MPAA would be there in a very short period of time. They have deep pockets and I for one wouldn't want to challenge them.
...and a Gestapo-like attitude to boot!
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Quote:
Originally posted by tiptoen
You may consider that the purchase or rental of a video is a license for the private viewer. Once you gather a group of people, for whatever reason, it is considered a public viewing. This would apply at a school, library, bar, or someones home. There is a big difference between Aunt Martha and Grandma coming over and 20 "friends" in the neighborhood or apartment building...


I can tell you for sure that if a local vender that sold or rented product found that you made a habit of it, they would most likely report you to the MPAA. Trust me, the MPAA would be there in a very short period of time. They have deep pockets and I for one wouldn't want to challenge them.
This is a very interesting perspective. tiptoen, I have a couple of questions about this view.


1) If I had a habitual party (say every weekend) with 20 friends (any friends) and showed a purchased DVD at these parties, held in my home or at the community center club house (designated exactly for private parties), why would the local seller of the DVD report that to the MPAA?


2) Are you really saying that the MPAA would arrive at such an event threatening legal action, arguing that these friends are not my relatives (Aunt Martha and Grandma), there are too many friends here, you cannot show a DVD movie in this house or room?


If this is really the course of action presumed, then I'm with ManE and Gestapo is an understatement.


Of course, being as naive as I am, I don't really believe that "Once you gather a group of people, for whatever reason, it is considered a public viewing. This would apply at a school, library, bar, or someones home."


Aren't the majority of DVD movies watched as a gathering of people? Are you really saying that now the group gathered must be qualified somehow as being only close friends and relatives? Or would it be OK if we just new each other's names?


I have to believe that the MPAA would really be hard pressed to start making a case for single person only viewing, or qualification of types of viewer relationships, or where these gatherings can be held, or even the numbers of people gathered (I've had some humongous parties myself).


It seems to me, the best control for the studios is to release to charge-venues (like theaters) first, as presently done. Then once released on DVD, the only meaningful control is against copy and redistribution or using it to again charge people for viewing.


I have to believe any other activity would not be enforcably prosecuted. This is the price they (the studios) pay in exchange for the DVD profit received - by virtue of the media itself! (movable, transportable, formatted to play on any DVD player).


The choice is don't release it on DVD; otherwise expect private groups of people (no matter the size, relationships between them, or location of them) to have the right of no-charge viewing of the content.


just my $.02


ken
 

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Ken,


Just watch out. I think you are attempting to fool yourself into believing something that you want. As soon as money changes hands for viewing/listening either directly ( ticket price ) or indirectly ( consesion stand / advertisments ) you may be in trouble.


I think the "club" media room would be ok as long as...


1) It's not the club's ONLY thing

2) Everyone who is there are private members ( or guests of members ).


With that it could be consitered private and non-commercial.


I also believe that a movie co-op would probably work as long as nobody had to pay to rent movies. Every member would be given a list of movies to add to the collection and then all movies would be shared without cost to co-op members who either payed a small fee to help run or worked for the co-op. This would work on the same principal as a library.


But as stated before.... seek legal help if you are making ANY money off the venture.
 

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The Original post ask about charging to see the video or charging for concessions. If you profit from these "parties" and make it a habit, I do think the MPAA would take interest. I also think small local rental stores would argue that this pulls revenue form their pockets and may or may not make a stink about it. If a store did complain the MPAA would investigate. If this is a no charge lets have a party gathering, and a video happens to be playing of course no one would care. On the other hand if there was a charge, or if this was a very regular event with alot of people I have to believe sooner or later someone would take notice. Just for your information, the MPAA does have field agents in most, if not all major cities, and to my knowledge, they follow up on most complaints. In the last few years they have contacted me two or three times about cases they were working in our area. Mind you, I'm not siding one way or another and am just stating my opinion based on past experience with the MPAA.


jfyi

The Federal Copyright Act (Title 17 of the United States Code) governs how copyrighted materials, such as movies, may be used.


Neither the rental nor purchase of a videocassette carries with it the right to show the tape outside of the home. No license is required to view a videotape inside the home by a family or social acquaintances, and home videocassettes may also be shown, without a license, in certain narrowly defined face-to-face teaching activities (Federal Copyright Act, Title 17, section 110).


Taverns, restaurants, private clubs, prisons, lodges, factories, summer camps, public libraries, day-care facilities, parks and recreation departments, churches, and non-classroom use at schools and universities are all examples of situations where a public performance license must be obtained. This legal requirement applies regardless of whether an admission fee is charged, whether the institution or organization is commercial or non-profit, or whether a federal or state agency is involved.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
tiptoen, snowmoon-


Thanks for the replys. It looks like we're all on the same page here, including what I'm getting as legal advice.


As long as there is no charge (viewing or concession) and it's not a general public forum such as those listed by in tiptoen's post (Taverns, restaurants, private clubs, prisons, lodges, factories, summer camps, public libraries, day-care facilities, parks and recreation departments, churches, and non-classroom use at schools and universities), it's not a violation of present copyright law.


I'm talking about private, resident only media-rooms being put in by Apartment and development complexes for use by the residence. It's a facility amenity like a meetin room, tennis court, etc. No money changes hands, no charges, no concession charges and only available for those who reside there to use for their private parties. There is no one making money.


tiptoen, It does potentially conflict with your assertion the "Neither the rental nor purchase of a videocassette carries with it the right to show the tape outside of the home". Do you understand this to mean, viewing can only take place in a home? If so, this conflicts with the legal advice I was given, that copyright cannot restrict to a location specification, only the circumstances of viewing. In other words, I cannot 'sell' viewings anywhere (even in the home), but nothing stipulates only home viewings (renting a private room somewhere is considered OK for example)


Probably beat this thing to death now - but thanks for your response - it's interesting indeed--


ken
 
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