Argument preview: Free TV, at a bargain price? : SCOTUSblog: As long ago as 1931, the Supreme Court interpreted those words from the perspective of what the broadcast audience was or would be for a program, and on how they got it. ”The parties agree,” the Court said then, “that the owner of a private radio receiving set who in his own home invites friends to hear a musical composition which is being broadcast, would not be liable for infringement [of the music's copyright]. For even if this be deemed a performance, it is neither public nor for profit.”
In that case, however, the Court went on to rule that the owner of the LaSalle Hotel in Kansas City, Missouri, who put radios in each room so the occupants could pick up a popular song from a master receiver in the hotel, had infringed on the copyright for that music.
That opinion established two concepts for broadcast copyright law: the nature of the middleman in delivering the entertainment counts, but so does the identity of the end user, or listener.