Re: Renting collections

John Holland (
Mon, 17 Dec 2001 14:00:39 -0800 (PST)

What makes it legal for public libraries is the same law which makes it legal
for Blockbuster et al to rent movies. That we (and most other public libraries
that I have run across) charge a nominal rental fee for theatrical feature
films came into being mainly to appease video store owners who were protesting
that libraries were giving away what they were trying to make a living off of.
That said, at CPL we don't charge for "educational" videos, only features, and
in all cases the patron is responsible for how it is used - home use or face
to face teaching. If someone decides to show one of our videos in a public
setting, the library is not responisible, just as if someone decided to check
out a new bestseller book and run off photocopies for their friends, or scan
it into their webpage and distribute it for free. It falls under what I seem
to recall is known as Right of First Sale - we loan them in good faith and
inform the patron of their proper use. If they abuse that, they get sued, not
us. As for an academic library, I would assume you would have to negotiate
this with your board (or whoever decides these policy issues), but I am not
aware of any laws preventing it.
The only thing which I know of that was debated for a while was whether public
libraries could have viewing facilities on the premises - someone suggested
that the screening of a video in a public building, regardless of whether it
is one person in a carrel or not, was public performance. The stand taken by
ALA as I understand it is that this is NOT public performance, as long as it
is one or two in a carrel and they have headphones.
I would verify any of this free advice with a lawyer before you make any
decisions however!

Patricia O'Donnell wrote:

> Thanks in advance for your response to this inquiry.
> This may well have been asked and answered already, but here I go again--
> How is it that Public Libraries are able to make their video collections
> available for "rental" to the community? I'm presuming that it is legal
> for them to do so since virtually every one I've checked with (8) does it.
> Do any of you know if it is legal for them to be renting the collections
> and if so, what "protection" they are operating under? And finally, would
> the same protection apply to an academic library?
> Regards,
> Patricia O'Donnell , Manager
> OID-Instructional Media Library
> (310) 206-1248

John Holland
Chicago Public Library
Media Express
(312) 747-4100