Regarding the rights to show a prerecorded videocassette or a laserdisc in a
classroom, Lincoln Stewart writes that public performance rights are not
included in the sale of a prerecorded videocassette or laserdisc. That is
correct, and I did not indicate otherwise.
However, the point of Sect. 110 of the Copyright law, the Educators'
EXEMPTION, is to define when public performance rights are at stake and when
an educator may have an exemption to those rights. The educator does NOT
have public performance rights but does have face-to-face, classroom rights
which supercede the intellectual property rights of the copyright holder. A
teacher who showed a prerecorded videocassette to a public gathering (even
free) would be violating public performance rights. But an educator who
shows a prerecorded (purchased) videocassette in a classroom situation,
face-to-face (not over cable to multiple places), with only students present
has the right because of the educators' exemption (sect 110 of the copyright
Miller's passage regarding "displays . . . must be made from legitimate
copies, including prerecorded videocassettes" does NOT mean that one can
make a vhs copy of a laserdisc and show it in a classroom. What it means
(see the whole original passage) is that the prerecorded videocassette must
be an authorized (legitimate) copy in terms of rights: i.e, a company that
owns the rights to the 35mm film CITIZEN KANE can make a legitimate copy in
the medium of the laserdisk or vhs tape. That legitimate copy, purchased OR
RENTED by the educator, can be displayed in a classroom, if the educator
follows the rules: face-to-face, students only, etc.
I hope this clears this up. These issues and definitions of the educators'
exemption are very clear in the copyright law while other issues are not
discussed or potentially available for testing in the courts.
Stewart's remarks about renting software might be interesting test case, and
this might possible if the educator only used the software during class.
Since US copyright law is currently being revised to deal with, among other
problems, the arrival of the information highway, this specific case might
be covered in the new law.
I think it is very important to follow the law. One can disagree with the
law and work to change the law, of course. Thankfully, if one follows the
rules, one can, according to the US copyright law, legally show purchased or
rented videotapes and laserdiscs in classrooms. Janet Staiger
Professor of Radio-Television-Film
Director, College of Communications Senior Fellows Program
University of Texas at Austin
Austin, TX 78712 USA
512-329-5144 (home fax)
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