I know that if I were to show movies to a public audience, I would have to pay a licensing fee. But what if I were renting DVDs to customers along with renting out to them a small, private outdoor pavilion with a movie projector/screen set up? They would be showing the movie to a small private gathering. Would anyone in this situation be in the wrong?

  • Do you have permission to rent out the DVDs as well, or to allow them for the use of people outside of your own household?
    – user4657
    Aug 10, 2018 at 4:44
  • My understanding is while copyright law at 17 U.S.C. Section 106(3) provides that the owner of a copyright has the exclusive right “to distribute copies ... of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending,” the "first sale" provision of copyright law at Section 109(a) provides that, notwithstanding the copyright owner’s Section 106(3) distribution right, the owner of a particular copy of a work "is entitled, without the authority of the copyright owner, to sell or otherwise dispose of that copy ... ."
    – user20401
    Aug 10, 2018 at 13:18
  • I thought that was how all physical DVD rental stores were able to operate -- they don't need a license to rent the movies because they bought and own the physical copies, and they can do with them what they wish. But is there some issue with renting the DVD out knowing (because I am providing them with the space) that their use of the DVD will not be limited to their home? They're not broadcasting it in public, they'd be playing it at a private gathering. Think a glamping type set-up. Am I being overly concerned about this?
    – user20401
    Aug 10, 2018 at 13:23

1 Answer 1


Checking Cornell on copyright law, the reserved rights include public performance and public display. If you have a DVD legitimately, you still can't display or show publicly without a license. So, the question would seem to be if this is a public performance.

A private performance is perfectly legal, and requires no further license. If the public is admitted in some form, it's copyright infringement.

  • info.legalzoom.com/…
    – user20401
    Aug 10, 2018 at 17:08
  • So this link includes the following info: "Courts often look at the nature of the establishment when determining if the showing is considered public or private. A hotel room or a private home is most likely considered a private viewing. The court will look at who is allowed in the door. In one case, a video store rented private rooms where movies could be watched. The video store said that this was a private room. However, the court decided that if anyone can pay to get in the door, then it is a public showing and copyright infringement."
    – user20401
    Aug 10, 2018 at 17:10
  • I would say a pavilion/outdoor space rental for a private gathering of friends/family is more similar to the nature of renting a hotel room than a room in a movie store where anyone can pay to go in and watch?
    – user20401
    Aug 10, 2018 at 17:11
  • How do you control what is family and friends and what is somebody letting any random passerby inside?
    – user4657
    Aug 10, 2018 at 21:05
  • I guess I could require a guest list. But they'd be in the middle of the woods, I don't think a judge would consider it reasonable to imagine that a random passerby were meander out to there site?
    – user20401
    Aug 10, 2018 at 22:15

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