Well, that didn’t take long. Last month we noted the launch of Zediva, an Internet movie streaming service that took that novel approach of enabling customers to stream the freshest DVD releases renting them a physical DVD and DVD player, stored at Zediva’s data center, rather than serving up a digitized version of the content. Now, the Motion Picture Association of America is suing Zediva for copyright infringement (PDF), saying that Zediva’s claims that it’s a rental service rather than a streaming service are just a “gimmick.”
“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,”
“Zediva’s mischaracterization of itself is a gimmick it hopes will enable it to evade the law and stream movies in violation of the studios’ exclusive rights,” said MPAA Senior Vice President and Associate General Counsel Dan Robbins, in a statement. “Companies like Zediva profit off creators without paying them what is required by the law.”
At issue is the right of public performance, a long-enshrined part of copyright law that required authors and publishers of a copyrighted work receive a royalty for public performance or display of the work, which is generally defined as anything outside of an informal gathering of friends and family. Transmission-based media—including radio, television, and cable—have to have public performance rights to a work in order to broadcast it. The MPAA’s complaint (PDF) asks for $150,000 for each infringed work, and want an injunction shutting down the Zediva service.
Zediva did not immediately respond to a request for comment. However, the company has previously characterized its service as a rental operation, since it physically rents a DVD and physical DVD player to customers for the duration of their session. Zediva has argued that it’s the same as renting a DVD and a DVD player from a video rental store, except these are at the end of a very long wire, and that they do not require public performance licenses in order to rent a legally-purchased DVD.