If a library wants to play a live television broadcast within a nonprofit library, is there a copyright problem?

Not if the library simply uses the equivalent of a "home receiving set." In other words, if it uses a regular television set and there is no charge for seeing the performance, then there is no problem with playing the television set. Section 110(5) of the Copyright Act provides this exception. It does not apply to the recording of the broadcast, or to any further transmission of itsimply the performance of a broadcast television program that can be viewed by patrons who come into the library.

May a children's library show videos in is leisure section to pacify children while the parent looks for a book? What if the library instead permits an individual child to come in and select a video, and then the librarian inserts and runs it just for that one child at an individual viewing station?

While it would very useful to find a way to occupy children to permit their parents to search for books in peace, the first situation described is a public performance of that video. The library can legitimately show videos for groups of children or in a public space only if it has the public performance right, which often requires paying a fee for the performance.

If the library has individual viewing stations, a child could watch a video at such a station without it becoming a public performance. An individual viewing station envisions a single user and earphones, and it is a private performance for which no permission is needed. If the video viewing equipment is in a public area where other children may join in, then the performance is still a public one, even if only one child is present. The Copyright Act defines a public performance as one outside the normal circle of family and friends, or one that occurs in a public place, such as a public library.

Is a home school class in a public library the same as a traditional classroom for fair use purposes?

Typically a nonprofit educational institution is a school that is organized as a school under the tax codes of the country. In the copyright sense, the problem with home schooling is that the exceptions that apply to nonprofit educational institutions apply to schools themselves. Home schooling is not a school in the traditional sense. The exceptions recognize the public good of nonprofit educational institutions, and there is no institution in a home schooling situation.

On the other hand, a public library is also a nonprofit institution, and a good argument can be made that it has become an educational institution for home schooled students. If public libraries so claim, then only their activities for home schooled students count, and they will have to satisfy the same restrictions as do nonprofit educational institutions when taking advantage of the exceptions. For example, section 110(1) of the Copyright Act permits these institutions to display or perform copyrighted works, such as motion pictures, in a classroom to students and teachers as a part of instruction. But the exception requires that no one else may be present for the performance. Most public libraries would be conflicted about excluding other members of the public from such performances, but in order to qualify for the nonprofit educational institution exception for home schooled students, the library would have to do so. And a librarian or "teacher" would have to be present for viewing the video.

Is it infringement for a children's librarian to read a book to children during story hour at a public or school library?

No, it does not infringe copyright. While common sense does not always provide the answer to a copyright query, in this instance common sense and the law actually converge. Reading aloud to children is a time honored tradition that increases young people's interest in books and reading. Section 110(4) of the Copyright Act permits nonprofit performances of nondramatic literary works (such as books) and nondramatic musical works when there is no payment of fees to performers, promoters, or organizers and if either there is no direct or indirect admission charge, or if there is one, proceeds go to charitable, religious, or educational purposes. Story hours typically meet these criteria.

The library in a nonprofit garden and sculpture park has a children's garden. During certain exhibits the library arranges story times for children that relate to the exhibits. Story times may take place in the library or elsewhere in the gardens. The books used are either owned by the library or borrowed from nearby public libraries, and the stories are read by volunteers on the weekends of the exhibitions. Sometimes the stories are "retold" rather than directly read. There is an admission fee to enter the gardens but no fee just for the story time. Do story times create a copyright problem?

Good news! Assuming that the storytellers are not paid and there is no admission charge to see or hear the performance (which is what a reading or story telling is under copyright), then the reading of that nondramatic literary work is exempted under section 110(4) of the Copyright Act as a nonprofit performance. But if performers or promoters are paid, the exemption is lost. An admission charge to the garden is no problem, but if there is an admission charge to participate in story time, the proceeds would have to go to charitable, religious, or educational purposes in order to take advantage of the exemption.

A medium-sized public library wants to record the story times for children and then replay them on the local community access channel. Will the library need to get permission for each book? Are there problems with filming the children who are listening to the story time reading?

If a librarian were simply reading a book aloud to children present in the public library, there would be no problem because of section 110(4) of the Copyright Act, which exempts some public performances, such as reading the book aloud, under certain conditions (see responses to Q121 and Q122). The problem raised by this question is the recording of the reading and then the replaying of it on television. There is no exception in the copyright law either for the recording or for replaying on television, even on community access channels.

On the other hand, would the copyright owner object? It is hard to predict. The safest course would be to seek permission from the publisher and to ask to record the reading and play the video on the community access channel. In fact, the library could ask the publisher for permission for several titles at once and see what the response might be.

Filming children participating in story time creates serious legal (but no copyright) issues. For example, the filming will require parental permission for each child who appears in the film. The public library should consult with the city or county attorney about all legal issues and what releases may be needed to permit the filming.

A librarian runs a community library in the virtual Metaverse of Second Life, located on a charity simulation, the West of Ireland, and the charity it supports is Project Children, a 501(c)(3) organization. A free client program called the Second Life Viewer enables its users, called "residents," to interact with each other through avatars. Residents can explore, meet other residents, socialize, participate in individual and group activities, and engage in activities from the purely social to diverse role play, advocacy, continuing education, as well as in the creation of music, art, and literature. Volunteer storytellers read stories in West of Ireland and sometimes at other locations. They receive no currency or gain, and no admission is charged to the simulation in which stories are read. Readings are done live in voice rather than streamed. Must the librarian obtain permission for these readings?

To some extent, these storytellers do what is being done in every library, school, and daycare center on a daily basis. It is important that the readings are performed live to a small group of people (usually about 20) and are not recorded or streamed for later playback. Section 110(4) of the Copyright Act, the so called nonprofit performance section, permits public performances of nondramatic literary and musical works without permission of the copyright holder if those performances are not transmitted and if certain conditions are met. For example, there may be no payment to performers or promoters, and there may be no admission charge, or if there is one, the proceeds must go to charitable, educational, or religious purposes.

The real question is whether Second Life counts as a transmission. Arguments exist that support both views. Typically, anything done over a computer network is transmitted. But one could argue that a live reading in Second Life is more like a live performance than it is a transmission. The law likely supports the fact that it is a transmission, however. If so, then permission would be required for the reading of the stories.

The librarian could approach a few publishers and make the argument that the readings are equivalent to a live performance. If the librarian can get them to agree, then this agreement could be used as evidence to convince other publishers to agree.

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