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 private.
    • 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 hotel rooms.
    • 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 a videotape.
      • Unlike a sale or rental, Maxwell's remained in physical control of the videotape at all time