Hollywood Studios Win Injunction Against Zediva

A federal judge has granted the MPAA a preliminary injunction against Zediva, a service that touts itself as a DVD rental service but the movie industry saw as being engaged in illegal online streaming.

Zediva quickly became popular earlier this year by cutting through the kind of red tape that has prevents outlets like Netflix and Amazon from offering newer films. The company rents its users a DVD player and a DVD, and customers use their computers like remote controls, playing a movie from afar

The business of Zediva depends on a controversial interpretation of copyright law. 

Instead of getting explicit licenses from Hollywood studios to offer movie streaming to the public, the company believes it is merely "renting" DVDs for private exhibition.

In April, the movie industry sued and challenged this interpretation, believing that Zediva was offering an unauthorized public video-on-demand service.

On Monday, California federal judge John F. Walter  granted the MPAA a preliminary injunction and just as importantly, has sided with the MPAA on the public vs. private debate. The judge cites case law and old reports by the House of Representatives at the time of the adoption of relevant copyright statutes to come to his conclusion that Zediva transmits publicly instead of renting privately.

The judge concludes, "In this case, Defendants are violating Plaintiffs' exclusive right to publicly perform their Copyrighted Works by transmitting those Copyrighted Works to the public over the internet, without a license or Plaintiffs' permission, through the use of Defendants' Zediva service." 

The parties now have a week to agree on an injunction that will be consistent with the judge's order before the case continues.

The MPAA  is cheering the development of having gotten the judge to accept its interpretations of copyright law.

"Judge Walter’s decision is a great victory for the more than two million American men and women whose livelihoods depend on a thriving film and television industry," says Dan Robbins, senior vp and associate general counsel for the MPAA in a statement.

Meanwhile, Zediva says it intends to continue fighting.

"Today's ruling represents a setback for the hundreds of thousands of consumers looking for an alternative to Hollywood-controlled online movie services," says Zediva a statement. "Zediva intends to appeal, and will keep fighting for consumers' right to watch a DVD they've rented, whether that rental is at the corner store or by mail or over the Internet."

E-mail: eriqgardner@yahoo.com

Twitter: @eriqgardner