We are presently in the early middle stages of a media revolution which will reach its climax when films, in one form or another, will be found in people's homes and under consumers' control in much the same way as books and phonograph records. Although the availability of home videotaping equipment represents a giant step forward in the process, the revolution began long before the invention of the Betamax. For well over twenty years hobbyist film collectors, currently between 20,000 and 120,000 in number, have been purchasing sixteen and thirty-five millimeter prints of both copyrighted and public domain films, and have been screening these prints in their own homes for the private enjoyment of themselves, their family, and friends. When a collector grows tired of a particular film, he customarily swaps it for another print in someone else's collection, or sells it to another collector and uses the money to buy an additional print. Unfortunately, collectors have been subjected to a great deal of legal harassment in recent years, not only in the form of actual and threatened civil suits for copyright infringement but also in the form of warrantless and totally illegal print confiscations by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). This Article will analyze current developments in both the civil and criminal law as they relate to the hobby of film collecting.


Symposium: Art and Law