In a bizarre yet brilliant example of how messed up the current copyright restrictions are, six major movie studios have filed a new lawsuit against the quasi DVD-rental outfit Zediva. Under the flag of the MPAA, the studios label the new business as a “sham,” because it uses a clever way to bypass a licensing roadblock.
Zediva is a recently launched movie streaming service which allows customers to rent and view physical DVDs remotely. It is the result of the movie industry’s set of strict copyright rules, but also a service that bypasses them at the same time.
Why, one might ask? Well, because this is the only ‘legitimate’ way to watch DVDs online immediately after they are released. All other services have to abide by enforced long delays before streaming digital (vs. physical) copies, since the studios are afraid that giving people access to movies straight away will cannibalize their DVD sales.
Zediva thought they had cleverly bypassed this restriction by letting people rent a physical DVD that plays in a real DVD-player at their datacenter, but with a huge cable attached to it called the Internet. Although it’s insane that they have to go to such an extreme to give consumers access to content in the first place, Zediva thought they had a solid plan.
The MPAA, however, didn’t agree.
Yesterday the movie industry outfit filed a lawsuit at the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, calling Zediva a sham. “Zediva illegally streams movies to its customers without obtaining required licenses from the movie studios,” the MPAA states in their press release.
“Zediva claims it is like a brick-and-mortar DVD ‘rental’ store and therefore not obligated to pay licensing fees to copyright holders. But the DVD ‘rental’ label is a sham. In reality, Zediva is a video-on-demand service that transmits movies over the Internet using streaming technologies in violation of the studios’ copyrights,” the MPAA added.
The MPAA’s stake in this is clear – money, money and more money. It’s not so much Zediva they’re interested in, but the loophole the company exploited to bypass the movie industry’s twisted copyright restrictions. If bigger players pick up this genius idea the MPAA fears they will lose their grip on carefully constructed copyright restrictions.
The big question that has to be answered here is why going to a brick-and-mortar store to pick up a DVD is so much different from playing the same physical DVD remotely. The latter is definitely more efficient, more ‘green,’ and much cheaper for the retailer and consumer. But, and that makes it interesting, from a copyright stance it’s the exact same thing.
The MPAA begs to differ.
“When legitimate companies stream movies to their customers, they pay license fees to the copyright owners, enabling content providers to invest in new products and services that pay writers, set builders, wardrobe designers, and countless others who contribute to a movie production,” MPAA’s associate general counsel Dan Robbins said.
So if you fill up your gas tank and drive to the bricks-and-mortar DVD ‘rental’ store everything’s just fine, but if the store decided to play it for you then they are suddenly ripping off wardrobe designers? How does that work? Seriously.
There is no difference whatsoever. It’s only that that the movie studios want to control who gets to see what, when and where on the Internet, because they think that will benefit their profits. In reality, it’s just as crazy as setting up separate rules for bringing home rental DVDs in a Chrysler and a Ford.
Let’s hope the judge at the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles asks the same questions.
Once again the MPAA is attempting to keep their copyright cash cow alive, and by doing so they are hindering innovation and prohibiting customers from watching films in a convenient way. They think that this option will be the most profitable for them, but it’s certainly not in the best interest of consumers, who might just be tempted to pirate films instead.