I am an officer in a club here at Mason and we were trying to organize a movie night. The idea cropped up as almost an afterthought while we were on a trip, so we didn't expect the planning to be a big deal. As it happens, this couldn't have been further from the case. We had no trouble getting the movie, 28 Days Later, because our advisor is a faculty member and simply checked it out of the media center in the JC. It was when we tried to find a place to view the movie that we ran into trouble.
We initially went to Housing and asked to reserve one of the lounges or maybe the cinema in Eisenhower. As soon as they learned that we planned to watch a movie and didn't have a license for it, they barred us from using their facilities. I initially thought we had a case in the mighty "Fair Use Doctrine," which gives certain rights to media users that are contained in their ownership of a copy of something. For instance, watching a movie at your home with a few friends (who did not pay for any part of the movie) is not specifically "allowed," but has been OKed by Fair Use decisions. I figured that we fell into the "educational exemption" for Fair Use, which is commonly used by teachers when they want to show a movie to their class. We are an educational organization that is linked to a professional organization as well. After some research, it seems that you only get some sort of protection in Fair Use if you are "a teacher," "presenting the work as part of a pre-designed lesson plan," and four other strict guidelines that pretty much restrict the Fair Use exemption to classrooms alone.
With this sad state of affairs recognized, I quickly realized that the hosts of Buzz Out Loud would probably LOVE to hear of my plight and might even have some insight. I sent off a voicemail (in MP3 form...it is a podcast after all) to their show and they aired it. In fact they not only aired it, but devoted several minutes to discussing the rediculousness of our situation. They at first also though "Fair Use will save us" but alas I sent them a follow up email, which they read on their show, and it explained why even that doesn't do it. Overall, I didn't get any help, but I'm glad to add my voice to a huge number of group leaders who have trouble getting stuff done because of restrictive copyright laws. Also, I'm glad they let me use their show as a sounding board for such frustration.
I will say that I have an idea which could solve the whole issue. If all the copyright major holders (as almost all of them are conglomerated together into big companies) could get together and put up a website that listed all of their works, individuals and groups could enter their usage information and pay a nominal fee for a kind of e-ticket. That e-ticket could then be placed at the place of works usage and everyone would know it was legit. The current system is too complex for a group to quickly do anything that requires a license and I think the copyright holders would probably make more money if they simple constructed a site like this. They could even monetize it by linking it to sites that sell their content (ala Amazon).
Anyway, that is my rant and I hope you will all check out Buzz Out Loud, because as podcasts of indeterminant length go, they're the top!
(if you're interested, my call and email were played on episodes 591 and 592 respectively - toward the end)
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