Disney’s attempt to prevent Redbox from buying its discs for rental and resale may have blown up in the House of Mouse’s face. The Hollywood Reporter describes how District Court Judge Dean Pregerson sided with Redbox to shoot down a Disney-mandated injunction. In addition, Pregerson contended that Disney may itself be misusing copyright law to protect its interests and its own forthcoming streaming service.
If you’re unfamiliar with the backstory, Redbox didn’t have a deal in place to procure Disney DVDs and Blu-rays for its disc rental kiosks. So, the company simply bought the discs at retail, often snagging combo packs that include a DVD, Blu-ray and a download code for the movie as well. Redbox would then offer up the discs for rental, and sell on the codes at its kiosks for between $8 and $15.
Such a move enraged Disney, which includes language in its packaging and on the website demanding that users must own the disc if they download a copy. But this is where Pregerson began to disagree, saying that Disney cannot dictate what people do with copyrighted media after they have bought it. Specifically, that there’s no law, or explicit contract term, that prevents folks from doing what Redbox did with Disney discs. Although it’s possible that Disney can amend the wording on its packaging in future to make its objection to reselling legally binding.
Link to the rest at Engadget and thanks to Felix for the tip.
PG thinks a lot of overreaching contract language printed on product packaging or popped up on a computer screen on a click-to-accept basis may be difficult to enforce if such language goes very far beyond what the copyright laws protect.
While he does not advise anyone to violate the rights of a copyright owner or any other owner or licensor of intellectual property, PG suspects a rule of reasonability will be applied more liberally by most judges to shrinkwrap and fine print contracts included as part of a product’s packaging, click-to-accept agreements or website terms and conditions referenced in a small-print link at the bottom of a computer screen.
PG suggests that customers/visitors, etc., read and understand such documents, but observes that a great many IP owners rightly hesitate before applying sanctions to violators more serious than terminating customer access to the protected material.
At least in the United States, if a judge sees anything resembling a trap for the unwary, particularly an unwary consumer, that judge will seek and find a reason to avoid enforcing provisions that overreach. Of course, most individuals are not anxious to be the test case under which the agreement is voided in whole or in part.