Judge finds that Disney "misused copyright" when it tried to stop Redbox from renting download codes

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/02/22/copyright-misuse.html

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including DVDs from Disney that come with download codes to watch the videos through a DRM player.

Redbox rents these codes separately, repackaged in their own boxes.

How do you “rent” someone a code that lets them download a movie?


Disney is run by real bastards. Heard this morning on NPR that they promised to hand out $1000 bonuses to their resort worker employees… then turn around and say they’ll only do that if their resort employees’ union ratifies the latest contract offer. Wonderful.


Yeah if these are the codes I’m familiar with. They’re one time use codes that unlock streaming/download on the digital store of your choice. Including Disney’s own site. I’ve used mine on Google video.

I thought this case was about red box selling such one time use codes


You’re right.

A judge on Tuesday rejected Disney’s request for an injunction to block Redbox from selling download codes, dealing a significant setback in the studio’s battle with its low-cost competitor.


EDIT to add:
And from the article linked in the original post:

It [Rebox] purchases retail copies of Disney movies that include a piece of paper printed with a digital download code, which Redbox then removes to resell in its own packaging.


Ahh, that makes sense. On the other hand, it’s wild that the judge is allowing Redbox to buy one movie, split it into two copies, and make revenue off of both of them (I get that the judge is basically saying that Redbox IS buying two copies of the movie, and I’m not saying he’s wrong, I’m just surprised)


Where/how do I sign up for the MLF?

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Well you’ve got redbox buying one package that contains two copies. Selling the one that’s not rentable. And renting the one that is.

So far as I’m aware redbox is only buying those retail packages because they’ve been cut off from the wholesale rental DVDs they’d normally use by Disney. So…

Ultimately while its sketchy. Its not all that different from my buying Blue Rays. Giving the disks to my dad for his Blue Ray player. And using the digital code to get the digital copy for myself.


The surprise isn’t the logic behind the decision(it’s all sound and basically as you state); but seeing a copyright-related decision made from the position of “selling things you’ve purchased works as you’d expect; rather than as Disney would prefer”.

That’s practically heresy.


Well Disney has a point in that Red Box. A commercial entity. Is commercially selling. In volume. Digital codes it hasn’t really been authorized to retail.

But Red Box is only doing that because Disney won’t/hasn’t been wholesaling them rental market DVDs.

So there’s a petty obvious solution. Make a deal with Red Box over those DVDs that don’t have the download codes. That Redbox doesn’t seem to have access to anymore.

So though its a clear grey area. Disney seems to have done this to themselves.

A 9th Circuit judge found in Redbox’s favor, holding that the DVDs’ license agreement were not a binding contract…

Holy shit. Buried lead much? This sets an enormous precedent.


I was just talking to a cast member in the park about this last weekend. Blame the union for that, not Disney. It isn’t that Disney is withholding the bonus based on the union accepting a specific version of the contract. Because they are in the middle of contract negotiations, Disney can’t pay the bonus until a new contract is ratified by the union.


That may be the OBVIOUS solution, but the likely solution is that they will stop including a digital download code with DVDs. Perhaps they will start “selling” those separately.

Did the cast member give a reason why Disney can’t just cut checks and mail them? What’s stopping them? (I hope I’m not overlooking something obvious …)

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They already sell them separately. And the DVDs without them.

The combos exist to incentivize the sales of dvds and blue rays. Which are falling in the face of streaming and digital downloads. The combo is often cheaper than buying either format on its own.

And this is not unique to Disney. If they opted to nuke the free code with DVD they’d be faced with the fact that every other company. Even some TV networks are still doing it. Hell even the current vinyl boom is helped along by the fact that new records usually come with a download code. Even PC parts frequently ship with download codes for games as a sort of premium. Even where they’re not included by the manufacturer, retailers often tack them on as an incentive.

If there’s to be a bad for consumers outcome from this it’s probably in Disney’s stated plan to create their own steaming service for the exclusive hosting of their content.

Red box is sort of the last hurrah for physical DVD rental. Even Netflix’s DVD service is pretty vestigial. And frankly that end of redbox’s business is shrinking, And it’s days are numbered. There’s just less and less money in it. So they’ve been stepping outside the bounds of normal rental agreements. And attempting to launch their own streaming service. Hence the retail dvds instead of rental market dvds. But they’re pissing off the media companies who’s content they need to make it work (hence the Disney strong arm). So it doesn’t seem to be going well.

Disney probably doesn’t care about the DVD codes. They’re trying to quash a potential streaming competitor. Not that they needed to redbox is likely to quash itself.

And I’m not exactly sure what the fuck Disney is thinking with launching their own streaming service. The fox buyout gives them majority/controlling share of Hulu. So they already have their own streaming service. And rather than a new competitor it’s one of the handful of major players in the field.

It increasingly seems like Disney’s different divisions just aren’t talking to each other.

The problem is they want them to ratify a contract they have rejected, presumably with the support of their members. Disney could have just given this one time, measly bonus with no strings attached. Instead, they are making it conditional on the union giving management what they want.


The MLF is the brainchild of Dan O’Neill/The Air Pirates. O’Neill and the Air Pirates satirized Mickey Mouse in a short run of independent comics and Disney sued them. The legal wrangling went on for almost a decade, with Disney winning several judgments in court and O’Neill refusing to abide by them. Eventually Disney gave up and O’Neill claimed victory, but I don’t think anyone was paying attention by then.

The entire history is recounted in way too much detail in The Pirates and The Mouse: Disney’s War against the Underground.

IMHO, O’Neill’s collection Hear the Sound of My Feet Walking - Drown the Sound of My Voice Talking is pretty great. A fascist Mickey Mouse puts in an appearance at the end of the book, and if you mentally replace the Nixon references with Donald Drumpf it’s even timely.


I’m not. Well, ok, a little. But…

“You bought a box, plus the stuff in the box…”, not “you bought a box, and only some of the stuff in the box, the other stuff in the box you didn’t buy, you have to agree to some special terms, no, really, I don’t care what you think you paid for! Forget it buddy, you can only wear these shorts with that one shirt.”



Weird that Disney would offer a bonus they knew they couldn’t pay until contract negotiations were finished while in the middle of contract negotiations. It’s almost as if the bonus itself were offered to have the union pressured to finish the negotiations as quickly as possible (ie: in Disney’s favour).

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