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Technically, when you rent a movie, you are not allowed to invite friends over to watch it with you. By renting the title, you were granted a temporary private viewing license. Inviting people over constituted a public viewing. Copyright laws are ludicrous.

I’m not sure about the rental license, but copyright law says this:

To perform or display a work “publicly” means—

(1) to perform or display it 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; or

(2) to transmit or otherwise communicate a performance or display of the work to a place specified by clause (1) or to the public, by means of any device or process, whether the members of the public capable of receiving the performance or display receive it in the same place or in separate places and at the same time or at different times.


LegalZoom writes:

Most movies are intended for personal, private viewing only. If you're watching a movie in a group with your family and friends in your home, there is no issue under copyright law. Similarly, if you rent out a space for a private party and screen a movie for family and friends, and the party is exclusive to your guests and closed to the general public, there will not be a copyright law violation. However, if your event was open to members of the public outside your small group, the movie showing might be considered a “public performance."

If the showing is considered public, you are restricted by copyright law. Typically, you can't legally show a movie to the public unless you obtain public performance license from the copyright owner. You can obtain a public performance license by either contacting the copyright holder directly or by licensing from entities set up specifically for the purposes of licensing movies, such as Swank Motion Pictures or the Motion Picture Licensing Corporation.


First off, great concept! I would like to try this at least once.

But second, is that really true? I’m actually curious. I can’t imagine watching a rented movie in a private residence would be considered a ‘public’ viewing. If that is the case, where do they draw the line? Is it literally only for myself, the one person who purchased the rental? How many other people can be in the room? One, two, five, before the terms of said private viewing license are infringed?

If anyone has any sources where we could read further into the legality of these types of things, it would be interesting to look into.

I don't believe it would be considered public. IANAL but "According to the U.S. copyright law (Title 17, United States Code, Section 110), a public performance is any screening of a videocassette, DVD, videodisc or film which occurs outside of the home, or at any place where people are gathered who are not family members, such as in a school, library, auditorium, classroom or meeting room. " https://www.prattlibrary.org/research/tools/index.aspx?cat=1...

He's wrong. No one has, or ever will be prosecuted for renting a movie and watching it with their friends in their living room.

Claiming that something is illegal, and pointing out that no-one has been prosecuted for it, are not contradictory.

It is pretty pointless though!

As far as i know (form my college days in mid-2000s), we had this issue for setting up movie nights. Some people claimed that rented videos had an agreed-upon audience of (i think) 8 people. So to accommodate, let's say 100 people, we had to rent about 12 of the same videos.

Of course, we were in college and laughed and said screw it and just rented the one DVD.

But I never went back to check up on this.

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