Compendium of U.S. Copyright Practices, 3rd Edition

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1908 A Public Performance or Public Display Does Not Constitute Publication


1908 A Public Performance or Public Display Does Not Constitute Publication


As discussed in Section 1902, a public performance or a public display of a work “does not of itself constitute publication.” 17 U.S.C. § 101 (definition of “publication”). Therefore, if the applicant provides a date of publication in the application and indicates that the work was performed, televised, broadcast, displayed, or exhibited on that date, the registration specialist may communicate with the applicant and explain that merely performing or displaying a work in public does not constitute publication under U.S. copyright law, “no matter how many people are exposed to the work.” H.R. REP. NO. 94- 1476, at 138 (1976), reprinted in 1976 U.S.C.C.A.N. at 5754.


Examples of performances and displays that do not in themselves constitute publication include the following:


• Performing a song at a concert or on television or radio, regardless of the size of the audience.


• Showing a motion picture in a theater or on television.


• Performing a play, a pantomime, or a choreographic work in a theater.


• Delivering a speech, lecture, or sermon at a public event.


• Displaying a painting in a museum, a gallery, or the lobby of a building (regardless of whether the copyright owner prohibited others from taking photographs or other reproductions of that work).


• Displaying a fabric design, wallpaper design, or textile design in a store front.


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