Fair use of DVDs / Video Games

I don’t understand the exact laws behind what one is allowed to do with media and one is not allowed to.

For example, can one show a DVD in one’s home to friends? To people in a public place - ie. a school? Could you charge them to watch it? If not - why not? When I buy a DVD am I really just buying the right to personal viewing and not a copy of the movie?

Similarly with computer games - I am fairly sure that you’re allowed to let friends play at your home. Could you let people play at a school or prison or whatever? Again, could you charge them?

Legally, DVDs and tapes are for home viewing only. It says so on the FBI disclaimer at the beginning of each. That also says you cannot show them commercially, which rules out any admission fees.

Showing them in a public place depends on how the copyright holder wants to have it. Disney has sued day care centers who showed Disney videos, for instance, and I’ve heard that Paramount is also quite litigious if they hear you’re showing the video to a group, even if you don’t charge anyone.

Note that a group of people in your home – without an admission charge – is allowed. It’s only if you play it in a place of business, and there are some places (e.g., video stores) that get away with showing them.

Why you buy the DVD, you own the DVD disk and case, and can do with it what you want. This allows you to sell it on eBay, for instance. You cannot make a copy of it, though, and you can’t charge admission.

Computer games are different. Sure you can allow other people to play them, and if you take a properly licensed copy and put it on a public computer, anyone can play it (BTW, your license usually only allows you to install it on one computer; if you want it at school, you’re supposed to uninstall it at hime). Admission is a different issue, and it may be legal; you’d have to check your license agreement.

Oh just get DSL and iMesh :wink:


With computer game licenses, the restriction is usually (but not always: Re-read that licensing agreement that you probably just skipped over when installing) that you can’t set things up so that two people could play it at once. So, for instance, if it’s a game which requires that the CD be in the drive to play it (which is pretty much all games, anymore), then you can install it on multiple computers (since they can’t both have the CD in the drive at once), but if you try to copy the CD, or circumvent the part that checks if it’s in the drive, then you’re in trouble.

Some games do allow this to some degree, and have the copy protections set up to allow it (this is called “spawning”, and usually requires that one of the folks in a multiplayer game have the CD), but the game company doesn’t have to let you do that. If they do, then that’s just them being nice.