By Quentin Fottrell
Here’s an interesting development in a copyright lawsuit filed this week by the Motion Picture Association of America against Zediva.com: Zediva, a California-based start-up that streams movies for customers before Netflix or Redbox, has hired heavyweight Stanford University lawyer Mark Lemley and his San Francisco-based law firm Durie Tangri to fight the might of the movie studios.
It’s an important lawsuit to watch for consumers, companies like Netflix and the movie industry. Here’s why: Zediva operates as an online DVD store and doesn’t pay licensing fees. If Zediva wins this case, it doesn’t only mean that you could theoretically watch videos before Netflix and Redbox on Zediva, it would likely lead to an influx of similar start-ups eager to take advantage of the apparent loophole in copyright law.
Lemley is a good catch for Zediva: he is William H. Neukom Professor of Law at Stanford Law School and teaches intellectual property, computer and Internet law, patent law, and antitrust. He is also the author of six books and more than 100 articles on these and related subjects. Lemley tells Pay Dirt he will represent Zediva, but declined to comment further.
Zediva has an unusual business model: it streams movies as soon as they’re out on DVD because, when you rent a movie on Zediva according to its website, you are renting both a DVD and DVD Player in its data center. According to Zediva’s website: “Using Zediva, you can rent and instantly watch new movies much earlier, often several weeks or months, than either Netflix or Redbox.”
Many online streaming companies that don’t pay licensing fees are registered overseas, making these kinds of lawsuits difficult, but Zediva is registered with GoDaddy.com and hosted at a data center in Santa Clara, California. A Zediva spokesman declined to comment on the lawsuit.
As Pay Dirt reported this week, the MPAA alleged in a copyright infringement lawsuit: “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.”
Mike Robinson, executive vice-president and chief of operations for content protection at the MPAA, says companies that don’t pay licensing fees are hurting thousands of jobs in the movie industry.
What do you think of this novel online DVD service?