Library Renewal asks a provocative question in their post responding to the recent UCLA case regarding streaming of DVDs: If streaming isn’t copying, can libraries be Netflix? It’s a question that I’d bet many libraries would love to have answered in the affirmative. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
In short, here’s the background of the court’s finding (via ArsTechnica):
A Monday ruling suggests that educational institutions are entitled to stream legally purchased DVDs on campus without the permission of copyright holders. A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit charging UCLA with violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and other provisions of copyright law by ripping DVDs and streaming them to students.
If you read that and only that you may, in fact, believe that your library – or you, as a library professional – have every right to go ahead and Netflix yourself. And I think Library Renewal may have gotten a little excited a little too quickly:
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.
The crux of the issue is really what is defined as “educational”? Library Renewal suggests that Dora the Explorer is an educational series and, therefore, public libraries would have the right to stream the video. In academic libraries we can provide, in my opinion, an easy and defendable academic context for streaming videos: They’re for classes. But unless public libraries can claim the same or similar contexts (e.g., it’s for an online workshop, I’m streaming it for an in-library class, it’s part of our continuing education series, etc.), it is simply entertainment. UCLA claimed fair use under the educational provisions of 17 U.S.C. § 107, which provides freedoms for nonprofit educational uses. Streaming content without the educational context may provide future troubles for you as a library professional and the library you serve. At this point, I’d wait it out for the appeals process to dismiss or uphold and clarify the ruling before investing time, energy, and money in infrastructure for streaming at public libraries.