[Videolib] Comments from this august group re: College/University film societies

From: Deg Farrelly <deg.farrelly@asu.edu>
Date: Mon Nov 02 2009 - 12:37:29 PST

I responded to a discussion about college/university film societies on another list serve by referencing the Illinois State University/New Yorker
Films situation from 2006.

My comments resulted in a response I think is totally off-base and misguided, but somehow I cannot find the words or arguments to counter.

I'm copying the thread here: query, my response, the reply to my response.
I'm not necessarily looking for definitive answers from this group, but would enjoy hearing others' takes on the questions raised.

Please consider using selective copy/paste in your responses instead of a reply that recopies the entire thread.



deg farrelly, Associate Librarian
Arizona State University at the West campus
PO Box 37100
Phoenix, Arizona  85069-7100
Phone:  602.543.8522
Email:  deg.farrelly@asu.edu
Original query:
I've been approached by a faculty member that is interested in helping two students start a Film Studies club on campus. Their goal is to have "real" discussions of films, and to generate further interest for the film studies minor here.
Screenings would only be open to membership, and not advertised. They are not sure how they would do funding yet.
My questions are this -
1) Anyone have a similar group on their campus that these folks could communicate with?
2) Would these screenings fall under "public performance" with associated rights fees?
My reply:
I don't have anyone to point you to for assistance, but a search for "university student film society" on Google will return lots of links to standing groups along those lines.
Yes, these screenings will require public performance rights.  So whatever group is formed will need funding to pay those rights.
In 2006 the student film society at Illinois State University fell into a legal morass with New Yorker Films over their screening of videos for which NYF had the distribution rights.  I've just this week spent considerable time researching the resolution of that situation, speaking with the Office of Student Affairs, the president of the film society at the time, and the faculty advisor to the group.  The bottom line....
 *   The university eventually paid New Yorker Films
 *   The film society no longer exists
Coincidentally, New Yorker Films argued that unauthorized use of films for which they licensed public performance rights was eating away at their income and the sustainability of their business.  In February of this year New Yorker Films ceased operations.
Response to my reply:
Deg, Thanks for the background but I don't think you can make a blanket statement with this case. The film society at Illinois State University made several important costly errors.
1) The film screenings were truly open to the public and not restricted to club members
2) Several were shown in the Normal Theater (not on the University campus)
3) The screenings were publicly "advertised on the ISU group's Web site"
4) Mistakenly tried to claim the education exception to the copyright law.
All of this makes it a public performance.
Apparently they were contacted by NYF before they demanded the fee. They were very lucky to get by with being charge only $8000 for 20 films. Reportedly they showed 15-16 films a semester or 5 years! New Yorker Films did not even seek punitive damages which could have gone into the millions (SEE Jammie Thomas). What's even sadder is that they could have paid a $400 public performance fee. Then they could have charged admissions, sold refreshment's and taken up a collection to earn enough to pay for the next film.
If the students had
1). limited the screenings only to group members;
2). held the screenings in a smaller, controlled access space;
3). not advertised the screenings;
4). used the films for the purpose of "...criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research." (US CODE: Title 17 section 107)
5). published their criticism, comment, reporting, or research, to prove that was indeed their true purpose;
then they would have been on solid ground.
Unfortunately, most college presidents hear of this case and rather than hear the nuance of the case and ban film societies and all screenings.
There is still the fair use clause in the copyright law and the shield would apply here. Colleges really need to invest in a copyright lawyer to help them in such cases.
VIDEOLIB is intended to encourage the broad and lively discussion of issues relating to the selection, evaluation, acquisition,bibliographic control, preservation, and use of current and evolving video formats in libraries and related institutions. It is hoped that the list will serve as an effective working tool for video librarians, as well as a channel of communication between libraries,educational institutions, and video producers and distributors.
Received on Mon Nov 2 12:39:37 2009

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