GENERAL DISCUSSIONS

Any Legal Issues about Firefly Viewings/Parties? Please Reply!

POSTED BY: LAKOTA
UPDATED: Thursday, June 9, 2005 02:52
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VIEWED: 1995
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Tuesday, June 7, 2005 11:10 PM

LAKOTA


Someone had asked me about if there are any "legal" issues about showing Firefly episodes to the public or having Firefly parties? I'll give you my answer and would like your response please.

My response is:

1.) If you make any money off of anything FIREFLY for the purposes of profit ~ You're wrong (illegal).

The executive producer Chris B. mentioned at the second screening in porland that "they" (I'm guessing him & Joss) see this not as copyright infringement but as a "tribute" to Joss & Universal,everyone (to include the mass marketing and push for serenity, advertising, shirts & stickers made, etc.) but he countered with a question "...now will we crack down on browncoats?" ~ His answer was a smirk.

2.) If you show any Firefly episodes in public (lets say at a theater or an tavern, etc.) for free, are you breaking in laws and do you think Mutant Enemy or anyone else will prosecute? I'm asking because there have been Firefly parties and viewings in the past and I was wondering if anything was said and done?

I would like to hear your opinions please.

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Wednesday, June 8, 2005 1:57 AM

BUGDOG


There's a place here in Austin called Spiderhouse that has been showing Buffy on Tuesday nights - but they've switched to Firefly starting last night. It's free. I really wanted to go last night, but my husband was feeling poorly. *Sigh*

Come to think of it, they handed out flyers at the first showing of Serenity here advertising that they were going to start showing Firefly.

So I'm thinking it's ok, for now. Personally, I'm hoping the Alamo Drafthouse will have a Firefly marathon just before Serenity is released :)


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Wednesday, June 8, 2005 5:04 AM

GONZAI


Quote:

Originally posted by Lakota:
2.) If you show any Firefly episodes in public (lets say at a theater or an tavern, etc.) for free, are you breaking in laws and do you think Mutant Enemy or anyone else will prosecute? I'm asking because there have been Firefly parties and viewings in the past and I was wondering if anything was said and done?

I would like to hear your opinions please.



Depends on where you're having it. If you have a viewing party at your house, that's perfectly legal unless you charge admission. However, 'bring soda' isn't charging admission

A public place...even free, I'm pretty sure that's against the rules. Whether it's something the copyright holder will crack down on really depends on the individual copyright holder.



"I'm not a control freak. I'm a control enthusiast." - Joss Whedon

The Mid-Atlantic Browncoats are hiding from the Alliance at:
http://movies.groups.yahoo.com/group/Midatlanticbrowncoats

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Wednesday, June 8, 2005 5:13 AM

PHAEDRA


Caveat
I am not a lawyer! I passed the California Bar (that was bitch), but I have not been sworn in and thus am not admitted to practice in any state. I did graduate top third from my fancy law school (hey its not top 3%, but it's nothing to sneeze at) and currently co-teach Constitutional Law. I actually got a B in Copyright, so this is not my field of expertise. I did a lot better in Criminal Law in spite of my professors penchant for shouting cunnilingus and adressing each question with, "Troubling. . . deeply troubling." But we really didn't discuss
the issues your question raises. So again, no expertise here. I'm just a fan with a fancy degree.

Question Presented

So it sounds to me like you're asking two different but related questions. Let me see if I understand the scenario. If I exhibit Firefly publicly (i.e. in my place of business), but not for profit, can I:

1. Be subject to civil liability for copyright infringement to Mutant Enemy and/or Fox Entertainment?; and

2. Be subject to criminal liability under fed (pun intended) statute?

Short Answers

1. Technically speaking, maybe. I'd have to check my books, but regardless of profit or location (private residence or public fora) individually purchased copyrighted material is intended for the use and enjoyment of owner alone. So for example, if a teacher distributes a copy of an article in a class, they have to recieve the permission of the author and publisher. Conversly, speaking it's your gorram property and you should be able to share it with whom ever you choose. This is really a question of threshold. Does distribution of the material reach the level where it impacts the publisher's/author's interest in the material (i.e. making a profit). Wide distribution cuts into the profits, i.e. this is why Metallica sued and eventually won against Napster (Lars why Lars?). So my unofficial answer is don't get your panties in a bunch. Your not broadcasting over the internet to a large number of people who will then copy the material instead of buying the DVDs. Frankly speaking its not in their economic interest to bust you. It would take to much time, effort and expense. Plus they would have to know and find you first.

2. Pretty much the same answer. The feds proscute people for pirating (that's what that dumb warning is talking about) because large public exhibitions of materials or duplication of material is in theory stealing. But again, they'd have to know, find you and care.

If this is reallly troubling you, get me a copy of the statute you're concerned with (I believe you mean the ubiquitos FBI waring that appears at the begining of every commercially produced tape) and I'll do a little research. I would just go home and copy it down myself, but I'm in the midst of project hell and living out of my office. If you mean a different statute, please send me a copy. The answer may take a while, because again, the godess is punishing me for some unkown reason.

Again, this answer was not given in any official capacity. It is not based on research and does not purport to represent the actual state of the law, only my opinions. To speak plainly, if I'm wrong please don't sue me, I've worked long and hard for my career.

Phaedra (a bad luck name)

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Wednesday, June 8, 2005 6:54 AM

258WESTAUTHENTIC


Quote:

Originally posted by Phaedra:
Caveat
I am not a lawyer! I passed the California Bar (that was bitch), but I have not been sworn in and thus am not admitted to practice in any state. I did graduate top third from my fancy law school (hey its not top 3%, but it's nothing to sneeze at) and currently co-teach Constitutional Law. I actually got a B in Copyright, so this is not my field of expertise. I did a lot better in Criminal Law in spite of my professors penchant for shouting cunnilingus and adressing each question with, "Troubling. . . deeply troubling." But we really didn't discuss
the issues your question raises. So again, no expertise here. I'm just a fan with a fancy degree.

Question Presented

So it sounds to me like you're asking two different but related questions. Let me see if I understand the scenario. If I exhibit Firefly publicly (i.e. in my place of business), but not for profit, can I:

1. Be subject to civil liability for copyright infringement to Mutant Enemy and/or Fox Entertainment?; and

2. Be subject to criminal liability under fed (pun intended) statute?

Short Answers

1. Technically speaking, maybe. I'd have to check my books, but regardless of profit or location (private residence or public fora) individually purchased copyrighted material is intended for the use and enjoyment of owner alone. So for example, if a teacher distributes a copy of an article in a class, they have to recieve the permission of the author and publisher. Conversly, speaking it's your gorram property and you should be able to share it with whom ever you choose. This is really a question of threshold. Does distribution of the material reach the level where it impacts the publisher's/author's interest in the material (i.e. making a profit). Wide distribution cuts into the profits, i.e. this is why Metallica sued and eventually won against Napster (Lars why Lars?). So my unofficial answer is don't get your panties in a bunch. Your not broadcasting over the internet to a large number of people who will then copy the material instead of buying the DVDs. Frankly speaking its not in their economic interest to bust you. It would take to much time, effort and expense. Plus they would have to know and find you first.

2. Pretty much the same answer. The feds proscute people for pirating (that's what that dumb warning is talking about) because large public exhibitions of materials or duplication of material is in theory stealing. But again, they'd have to know, find you and care.

If this is reallly troubling you, get me a copy of the statute you're concerned with (I believe you mean the ubiquitos FBI waring that appears at the begining of every commercially produced tape) and I'll do a little research. I would just go home and copy it down myself, but I'm in the midst of project hell and living out of my office. If you mean a different statute, please send me a copy. The answer may take a while, because again, the godess is punishing me for some unkown reason.

Again, this answer was not given in any official capacity. It is not based on research and does not purport to represent the actual state of the law, only my opinions. To speak plainly, if I'm wrong please don't sue me, I've worked long and hard for my career.

Phaedra (a bad luck name)



You rock =) you will make a good lawyer

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Wednesday, June 8, 2005 8:10 AM

LIZANNE


I don't know how many X-Files fans are out there but.. we did public viewings of X-Files episodes once a year and were never prosecuted. We publically advertised and encouraged people to come to the viewings, as they were all to raise money for a charity called NF, Inc.

They were called Scully Marathons, sponsored by a group called The Order of the Blessed Saint Scully the Enigmatic (OBSSE). Before the marathon you'd collect donations like in any other charity marathon, "I'm going to run this many miles, donate this much per mile." With Scully Marathons it was more "I'm going to watch this many episodes, gimmie this much an episode." Then, on the day of the marathon you'd get large amounts of coins to throw at the screen for good or bad moments. You raffle off themed items, you decorate.. it's a *really* fun time.

They were held in around 12 states and in several other countries: England, France, Italy, Spain..

The creator of the show and the people at F*x knew about the viewings and always turned the other way.. so.. it just really depends.

Liz

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Wednesday, June 8, 2005 8:20 AM

KANADANI


I would think that as long as no one is charging admission it's not illegal (in terms of private homes).

For public venues who are not charging admission (I'm including cover charges and such) I would think that the powers that be (Mutant Enemy, FOX, etc.) would turn a blind eye to it since it's basically free advertising.


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Wednesday, June 8, 2005 8:49 AM

HASUFEL


This Saturday will be our second in a monthly series of public viewing parties:

http://www.fireflyfans.net/thread.asp?b=2&t=10510

We've planned these and aggressively advertised them on the Fox Official Board, and the Official Universal Movie site as well as here. Black helicopters haven't swooped down on us yet.



Arizona Browncoats - http://tv.groups.yahoo.com/group/AZ_Browncoats/

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Wednesday, June 8, 2005 8:52 AM

CAPTAINNAPALM


You can get some info from the US Copyright Office website : http://www.copyright.gov/

Copyright covers "performing the work publicly" and "displaying the copyrighted work publicly" so showing it at your home to personal friends should be fine, but showing it publicly (even if you don't charge) is technically illegal - though on a small scale extremely unlikely to be prosecuted.

From Copyright Basics Circular 1:
Quote:

WHAT IS COPYRIGHT?

Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States (title 17, U.S. Code) to the authors of “original works of authorship,” including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. This protection is available to both published and unpublished works. Section 106 of the 1976 Copyright Act generally gives the owner of copyright the exclusive right to do and to authorize others to do the following:

* To reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords;
* To prepare derivative works based upon the work;
* To distribute copies or phonorecords of the work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;
* To perform the work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works;
* To display the copyrighted work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work
; and
* In the case of sound recordings, to perform the work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission.

In addition, certain authors of works of visual art have the rights of attribution and integrity as described in section 106A of the 1976 Copyright Act. For further information, request Circular 40, “Copyright Registration for Works of the Visual Arts.”

It is illegal for anyone to violate any of the rights provided by the copyright law to the owner of copyright. These rights, however, are not unlimited in scope. Sections 107 through 121 of the 1976 Copyright Act establish limitations on these rights. In some cases, these limitations are specified exemptions from copyright liability. One major limitation is the doctrine of "fair use," which is given a statutory basis in section 107 of the 1976 Copyright Act. In other instances, the limitation takes the form of a "compulsory license" under which certain limited uses of copyrighted works are permitted upon payment of specified royalties and compliance with statutory conditions. For further information about the limitations of any of these rights, consult the copyright law or write to the Copyright Office.


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Wednesday, June 8, 2005 9:03 AM

CAPTAINNAPALM


Quote:

Originally posted by Phaedra:
Caveat
So for example, if a teacher distributes a copy of an article in a class, they have to recieve the permission of the author and publisher.



Actually, educational use is one of the "[URL= http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap1.html#107]fair use[/URL]" exceptions permitted along with things like quoting in a review.


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Wednesday, June 8, 2005 9:05 AM

CAPTAINNAPALM


Quote:

Originally posted by Phaedra:
Caveat
So for example, if a teacher distributes a copy of an article in a class, they have to recieve the permission of the author and publisher.



Actually, educational use is one of the "fair use" exceptions permitted along with things like quoting in a review.

http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap1.html#107


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Wednesday, June 8, 2005 10:52 AM

CANTTAKESKY


I know they have had movie rooms at sci-fi conventions (public venue, entrance/membership fees), and I have never heard of any of them prosecuted. I haven't been to a con in a while, but I believe it is still a common practice at conventions.

Maybe some public viewings, even at a convention of a few hundred/few thousand people, make too small an impact to pursue legally.

Doesn't mean it is necessarily right or legal. Just means you can get away with it, even in public exhibitions.

Can't Take My Gorram Sky

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Wednesday, June 8, 2005 12:01 PM

LEEH


I'm one (potential) step behind Phaedra--I'm STUDYING to take the Calif bar. But here's my two cents, with her same caveat that I'm not a licensed attorney:

1) there is no reason to assume criminal liability, if the statute in question is piracy. Showings don't involve copying for distribution (for profit or otherwise) so I don't think anything like piracy attaches.

2) for civil liability, you would need to demonstrate damages, I would think. It's true, whoever posted about fair use for education is correct; I used to teach college, and showed copyrighted material all the time with the surety that I was covered by fair use. For showings at bars, I wouldn't be so sure--the bar may be getting customers in even if the showing itself is free, using the material as a promotional item; on that basis, there is probably grounds for action under some statute involving licensing. For in-home showings, I really doubt there would be a problem unless the copyright holders went nuts and convinced themselves that the showings meant that those visitors weren't going out and buying the DVD since they were seeing it at someone's home. What are the odds, you know? It would have to be one big-ass party to even draw the attention of the owners (Fox, for the show). So I wouldn't lose sleep over it. Also, the studios appear to have been using a cease-and-desist approach even to piracy stuff like downloads, so they're more likely to start with a warning to stop, than to go right into suit. And they'd have a hell of a time identifying the damages involved--seriously, how do you prove that 10 or 15 people would have bought the DVD otherwise? And if they did, that might be 300-500 bucks--that's small claims court stuff. If there were a statutory violation, they'd still be paying lawyers for nothin'.

So, my own inclination would be not to worry about it.

Ok, that was a nice diversion from actually STUDYING for the bar.

And btw, Calif has the hardest bar in the country so, Phaedra, GOOD JOB!!!

"Well, my days of not taking you seriously are certainly coming to a middle. . . ."

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Wednesday, June 8, 2005 1:28 PM

PHAEDRA


Ok that does it! Peoples keep castin' aspersions on my lawyer like abilities. I'll have to go back and check my Copyright outline to get to the bottom of this. But even if I am wrong (not that a law like person would ever admit to that) and used a crappy example, I think my overall theisis is correct. Unless you can make some really good public policy argument, I think a public screening without permission still could create the potential of civil liability. I concurr with all of those who have posted that the copyright holders would have to have a major stick up thier pigus to prosecute.

Good luck on the Bar Leeh, it really not that hard, just a lot of memorizing and practice. I still have my flashcards on my hardrive. They're pretty cool (ugh inner geek showing . . . nooo!) I designed them so that you can print them out on lables and then just stick them onto index cards. I even color coordinated them. The text is power bolded so the key parts of the tests are clear. Back channel me if you want a copy. That goes for any other potential lawyers out there. My cards are CA specific, but they also work for the multi-state.

Phaedra

(Just incase anybody is wondering after reading the forgoing, yes I do have relations of the biblical nature with members of the opposite sex . . . just not when I'm studying or working . . . which is most of the time.)

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Wednesday, June 8, 2005 2:15 PM

SHINYSEVEN


Hey, Leeh--be sure to take a few minutes at the beginning of every essay to outline the issues, then start the essay with a description of ALL the issues. That way, if you don't have time to finish the essay, at least you'll get some points for complete issue-spotting.

Admittedly the maxim "it is easier to get forgiveness than permission" often works in the non-legal area, but if *I* wanted to show Firefly in a public venue, I'd call ME and talk to the person who handles permissions, who in all probability would say Shiny! if no profits were being made.

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Wednesday, June 8, 2005 3:12 PM

PHAEDRA


Ah suddenly all the lawyers come out of the woodwork. What I love about this site is the diversity of people it attracts. Any other scum sucking bottom feeders, oops I mean attorneys or almost attorneys, out there?

Phaedra (a bad luck name)

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Wednesday, June 8, 2005 7:25 PM

YT

the movie is not the Series. Only the facts have been changed, to irritate the innocent; the names of the actors and characters remain the same


Quote:

Originally posted by canttakesky:
I know they have had movie rooms at sci-fi conventions (public venue, entrance/membership fees), and I have never heard of any of them prosecuted.

...snip...

Doesn't mean it is necessarily right or legal. Just means you can get away with it, even in public exhibitions.


The larger, regular SF conventions negotiate with distributors for prints, & the rights to show 'em. They aren't getting away with it; they're following the law.

Keep the Shiny Side Up . . . (wutzon) Steve Winwood, "Back In the High Life Again", from "Back In the High Life"

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Thursday, June 9, 2005 2:52 AM

CANTTAKESKY


YT,

Thanks for the info. That makes sense. But I do know that many smaller conventions don't get permissions. At least they used to not.

Again, I'm not saying this is right. Just that this happens.

Can't Take My Gorram Sky

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