If Streaming isn’t Copying, can Libraries be Netflix?

October 11, 2011
Posted in: Board Member Posts, Buzz

You may have seen the news last week that the lawsuit filed against UCLA by Ambrose Video Publishing and the Association for Information Media and Equipment  (essentially the RIAA for classroom hardware and instructional IP) over UCLA’s streaming of purchased DVDs to remote authenticated users, was dismissed.


In a nutshell, UCLA licensed some DVDs and used a system called Video Furnace to rip them to a server so they could be distributed online to authenticated users. AVP and AIME said, “You can’t do that!” and UCLA was all like “Ya-huh we can” and AIME was like “YOU JUST GOT SERVED (with papers)” etc. etc.  But in the end, the judge found that Streaming is not a Public Performance (even though their license covered Public Performance) and that the educational context enabled a strong Fair Use defense, and dismissed this case.  This means that authenticated UCLA users can legally view a stream of a DVD that was purchased and ripped for their use, no matter what the licensor says about it. Sort of.

In other words, UCLA just invented Netflix. And it’s a good time to be looking for ways to meet the needs of Netflixers… they’re pretty nonplussed these days.

While this judgement has a relatively narrow scope, defining streaming video as not being a public performance is huge, because streaming music is a public performance. (Ask Pandora.) This really paves the way for public libraries to try a similar move, and rip and stream educational videos from their own collection to users, whether they’re in the building, on the bus, or in the Himalayas.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that the next library that tries this won’t also be sued by publishers or trade groups, but it does make the investment required by the plaintiff look like a much riskier bet with a precedent like this hanging around.

So, Dora is educational, right? Rip it onto some server somewhere, limit the access to library card holders, and we’re in business.

Things are changing quickly; hold on to your hats!

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