Re: [Videolib] Fair use of videos]]

Jed Horovitz (JedH@internetvideoarchive.com)
Wed, 2 Feb 2005 14:35:06 -0500

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I wrote to a copyright / antitrust attorney (who seems not to be up on the
Teach Act) that I just happen to know and asked....
>
> John,
> The Discovery Channel is refusing to sell
> videos to libraries/schools that don't also purchase public
> performance rights.
>
> Is this copyright abuse?
>
> Jed

That's a great question. It could be that the Discovery Channel is being
overly cautious not to be charged with contributory infringement for
knowingly selling to someone they have reason to believe will make an
infringing public performance, but since your facts suggests that they are
refusing to sell copies of works to which THEY own the copyrights, this
would not make sense. (In H.R. Rep. No. 94-1476, at 61 (1976), the Report
suggested a hypothetical that a video retailer who rents a tape to someone
knowing they intend to perform it publicly could be liable as a contributory
infringer. But the Discovery Channel need not fear suing itself.)

It would probably not rise to the level of a traditional antitrust
violation,
given that a refusal to sell is not typically a violation. But here, where
the intent is to in effect bundle the rights -- to condition the purchase of
the physical product on the purchase of a license to perform it publicly
regardless whether you need that license -- strikes me as copyright misuse
of the kind condemned 60 years ago and still good law.

Libraries, in particular, may never perform them at all, but simply lend
them, so this scheme would penalize someone for being in a position to
exercise the rights Congress entitled the library to under Section 109. As
for schools, even assuming it is a public performance it may well constitute
fair use, something the Discovery Channel could not categorically know.

If concerned at all with unlicensed public performances, the Discovery
Channel's interests could be taken care of by warning all buyers that the
purchase does not include the right to perform the work publicly, and
advising them on where to go to obtain a license to do so.

So, on balance, assuming that the policy applies to copies of works to which
they own the copyrights, I would say that unless there are factual details
to change any of this, the Discovery Channel's actions certainly appear to
be intended to unlawfully extend their exclusive right to "distribute"
copies of the work into enhanced revenue from licensing their exclusive
right to perform the work publicly. Whether approached as copyright misuse
or an antitrust violation, the outcome should be the same.

John

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