Blog Ipsa Loquitur

Published on under Legal Theory

Movie Studios Sue Streaming Movie Site Zediva via’s Epicenter:, which officially launched in mid-March, rents new release movies without permission from the studios, by letting its customers rent a DVD player and disk from afar. Only one person can rent a given disk at a time. That, the company argues, puts it in the same legal bucket as a traditional video rental store.

Zediva’s wrong, of course. Renting a movie and taking it home with you to watch on TV is a private performance that is protected by something called the First Sale Doctrine. Renting a movie and watching it in the video store is a public performance, which is one of the exclusive rights the copyright holders (movie studios) retains.

The First Sale Doctrine gives the purchaser of a copyrighted work some rights to enjoy the work, based on good old common sense. For instance, think of the difference between Starbucks selling you a movie on DVD, and Starbucks installing a flatscreen in the bathroom and charging admission to watch a movie.

Even if the movie studio didn’t intend to give me the right to watch the DVD, they sold Starbucks a DVD, and when Starbucks sells me that DVD, I’ve acquired that right under the First Sale Doctrine.