Columbia Pictures Indus. v. Redd Horne, Inc.
749 F.2d 154 (3d Cir. 1984)
Redd Horne was the owner of
several Maxwell's video rental stores. Instead of renting out the videos,
at Maxwell's customers would come in, get a movie, and would watch it in a
private video booth.
This was back in the day
before most people had VCRs at home.
Columbia, who made some of the
movies Maxwell's was renting sued for copyright infringement.
Columbia argued that under 17
U.S.C. §106(4) they had an exclusive
right to public performance of their works.
Maxwell's argued that this
wasn't any different than just renting the customers the videotape and
letting them watch it at home.
The Trial Court found for
Columbia. Maxwell's appealed.
The Appellate Court affirmed.
The Appellate Court noted
that 17 U.S.C. §101 defines the
term public performance as one where it is performed
"at a place open to the public or at any place where a substantial
number of persons outside of a normal circle of a family and its social
acquaintances is gathered."
The Appellate Court found
that the store as a whole met the definition of being "open to the
public", even if you could argue that each individual booth was
The Court also found that
since Maxwell's 'transmitted' the movie from the VCRs in the front of the
store to the tvs in the private booths, it met the "transmit or
otherwise communicate" definition in §101 for being a public performance
of the work.
This would also cover
things like a hotel sending movies to patrons watching in their private
Maxwell's argued that they
were protected by the first sale doctrine in 17 U.S.C. §109(a), but the Court found that
showing a video is a significantly different transaction than renting out
Unlike a sale or rental,
Maxwell's remained in physical control of the videotape at all time