Disney Enterprises and Buena Vista Pay Television filed a claim yesterday in Federal Court in New York yesterday against Dish Network claiming that Dish Network has been engaging in ‘unauthorized and unlawful distribution, transmission, copying and public display and/or performance of numerous, highly successful motion pictures owned and licensed by’ Disney.
The complaint specifically names Alice in Wonderland, Toy Story 3, Up ‘and others’ involved in acts of the violation as well as an intent for ‘imminent plans to unlawfully distribute, transmit, copy and publicly display and/or perform such recent hit movies as The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Secretariat, and Tangled, among others, all without authorization from Plaintiff.’
At the heart of the complaint is Disney’s agreement with Starz Entertainment which has limited rights to broadcast the films with what Disney calls an ‘express condition’ that Starz operates as a premium service, charging for the right to subscribe to its channel. Disney claims that a recent move by Dish Network to offer the Starz networks free to subscribers through January 2012 is in violation of Disney’s rights under federal law and that Dish did so without consenting either Disney or Starz in the matter. This, according to the complaint, ‘[threatens] the Plaintiff with the specter of continued irreparable harm unless Dish’s actions are preliminarily and permanently enjoined by this Court.’
The complaint goes on to explain the process of ‘windowing’ in which theatrically released films generally go through a chain of command before being accessible to the public in a venue that’s free of any additional charges, a process which Disney is claiming Dish to be jeopardizing by its actions. According to the complaint, after its theatrical run, the industry norm is to first offer the film to hotel video-on-demand and pay-per-view services, followed by home video releases, followed by premium cable networks and lastly, free to viewers. By offering the films free to subscribers via the Starz Networks, Dish is effectively reducing the value of the films as there is less incentive for customers to purchase the rights to see the films otherwise.
Disney is seeking unspecified damages equal to the maximum statutory amount allowed by law for copyright infringement for each airing named by the complaint as well as trebel damages for what they call ‘willful misconduct’ by Dish Network for ignoring cease and desist letters in the past.
Starz Entertainment, LLC, and Disney-ABC Domestic Television, a division of The Walt Disney Company, announced today the signing of a new, exclusive long-term licensing agreement for theatrical releases from The Walt Disney Studios through 2015. The previous output agreement was set to run through 2012. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
The deal extension provides Starz with exclusive pay TV rights to exhibit theatrically released Walt Disney Studios live-action and animated feature films, including those from Marvel Entertainment, on its Starz, Encore and MoviePlex linear channels, and its related on-demand and IP-based services, both in standard and high definition. Walt Disney Studios theatrical releases in the agreement, in addition to Marvel, include pictures produced under the Walt Disney Pictures, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Disney-Pixar, Touchstone Pictures, and Hollywood Pictures labels. Theatrical releases from DreamWorks Studios and Miramax Films will not be licensed to Starz under the new agreement.
Janice Marinelli, president, Disney-ABC Domestic Television, and Bill Myers, Starz Entertainment president and chief operating officer, announced the agreement on behalf of the companies.
“Disney and Starz have been partners since the launch of the flagship Starz premium channel back in 1994, and we are pleased to be able to extend our very successful relationship,” said Marinelli. “With this long-term extension, Starz’s subscribers will continue to experience the magic and excitement of our Walt Disney Studios motion pictures,” she continued.
Myers said, “Commercial-free movies from Disney have always been a cornerstone of our programming and will remain so for years to come even as we add original series to our movie mix.”
Myers noted that Starz has been a leader in making use of new technology to allow subscribers to enjoy programming in more convenient ways. “This agreement secures our ability to meet the needs of current and future subscribers in a fast-changing media landscape,” he said.
Walt Disney Studios animated movies and live-action feature films coming exclusively to Starz in 2010 include: Up, The Princess and the Frog, The Proposal (starring Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds), G-Force, Old Dogs (starring Robin Williams and John Travolta), Hannah Montana: The Movie, Alice in Wonderland; and Race to Witch Mountain.
Bloomberg reports that Disney and Starz are in negotiations concerning future exclusivity the network has to upcoming releases from Walt Disney Studios. Currently, the Starz cable network has first rights to live action films from Disney and wishes to continue the option for as long as five years, but at dispute is the digital rights to the films which Starz would would be able to farm out to online services such as Netflix, whereas Disney is reportedly looking to prevent Starz from having such capabilities.
This shouldn’t come as any surprise, however, as Disney has been generating news lately with Iger constantly promoting Disney’s own subscription-based services, not to mention the forthcoming Keychest technology.
From June 12 to July 12, you can watch High School Musical 3: Senior Year on Starz on Demand and enter to win a 3 day / 4 night dream vacation to Walt Disney World for four. Just watch for the trivia question before the film, collect the answer at the end and visit the sweepstakes page to enter.
One lucky winner will win the trip for four which includes park passes with park hopping, $1000 in spending money and – oh yeah – a night’s stay in the suite in Cinderella Castle. 100 first place winners will win a HSM3 gift pack valued at $50.
High School Musical 3 debuts on the Starz movie channel on Saturday, June 13, but is already available on Starz on Demand along with tons of extras.