The House of Mouse is suing the last remaining successful physical media rental purveyor in the US, Redbox, over digital downloads of its films.
Redbox typically sources its DVDs and Blu-ray discs from third-party sellers, which is a model that has landed it in court more than once. In the case of Disney, Redbox has the studio’s consent to rent its content in this way, but not in digital form.
In October, in the absence of a formal content partnership with Disney, lower-cost digital codes began appearing on the Redbox website. These unlock streams and downloads from Disney’s services or affiliated sites and in many cases the prices are less than half those of other outlets. The animated hit Moana, for example, retails at $19.99 at most outlets; on Redbox it’s available for $7.99.
Disney said in a statement: “Redbox is selling our digital movie codes in blatant disregard of clear prohibitions against doing so. Their actions violate our contracts and copyrights, and we have filed this action to stop Redbox’s unauthorised conduct.”
In response, a Redbox spokeswoman told the Wall Street Journal: “While we don’t comment on pending litigation, we feel very confident in our pro-consumer position.” Redbox has not revealed where it’s getting the codes.
“While we don’t disclose the source, we’re pleased to sell these original digital movie code inserts to our customers at the great value they expect from Redbox,” Kate Brennan, head of communications for Redbox, told Deadline.
The news comes as Disney continues to beef up its Movies Anywhere service, which also allows film downloads. Disney recently added films from four other major studios: Sony Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros and Universal Pictures. The addition of the other studios greatly broadens the value of Movies Anywhere as an outlet and firmly makes it a competitor to Redbox and other electronic sell-through (EST) purveyors, like Apple’s iTunes.