Note: this is a preliminary report on an ongoing research matter. It
has been issued to inform interested parties and to, hopefully, stimulate responses that help with
the aforementioned research. The questions being -- 1.) Do Public Libraries and School have to
purchase videos with so called public performance rights? 2.) Are Public Libraries permitted to
lend and/or rent videos that they own?
The Copyright Act states that the owner of a lawful copy can "sell or
otherwise dispose of" the copy.
Otherwise dispose of refers to "renting, leasing and/or lending" a legally owned
copy of a work, be that work a book or a video. This was firmly established in the early 80s when
Hollywood spent millions trying to prevent Video Stores from renting the movies they [the
studios] were willingly [and legally] selling to these same stores.
The studios had even went as far as placing notices on the cassettes (both physically and
recorded on the video) that it was for SALE ONLY and that RENTAL NOT ALLOWED. This
includes Disney. Well, we all know what happened. There's over 50,000 stores renting (or
otherwise disposing of) videos in this Country alone.
The principle -- Right of First Sale -- arose as a result of the
above mentioned legal actions. Basically it means -- Video Stores (and a myriad of other
retailers) can rent any and all videos that they purchase legitimately. They also give away
(loan) free rentals as incentives. Therefore, it must follow that Libraries can sell, loan or rent
them, whatever the case may be. The idea that libraries or schools must purchase so called public
performance rights is without basis in law, in my not so humble opinion.
As yet, I've been unable to find direct reference to the Right of First Sale in the Federal Law
Link I've listed. However I did come upon what I believe is a study that a student conducted at
(of all places) Berkeley (how appropriate). You'll find it at Copyright
and Electronic Journals. It's a good read.
Please. Anyone wishing to take issue with this, cite the law. Show us the case study where it
was handed down. I couldn't find any and I looked real hard. As a person that holds copyrights
and, more importantly, as a person the represents others that do, the last thing I want to happen is
for me to cut my throat with the producers (rightholders) that I work with. On the other hand, I
don't want to over charge libraries or schools for products, and cut my throat with them. A real
I will continue to search for references to The Right of First Sale. I
ask that others (like you) take up the cause too. Perhaps together we can discover ways to reduce
the average cost per video (and programming on other "methods of delivery"). Then
Public Libraries & Schools will have more funds available for purchasing additional support
materials thereby increasing their collections.
References: Fair Use Doctrine
Copyright Act §107. Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair Use and §108. Limitations
on exclusive rights: Reproduction by libraries and archives. And
Addendums (Historical and Revision
Notes & House Report No. 94-1476).
For those that want to look further into this situation, you might want to visit these locations:
Link to U.S. Copyright
Office and/or Find Law for Supreme Court Case Searching
Any mistakes made, are made with the best of intentions.