MGM Says Starz Waited Too Long to Sue Over Exclusive Movies

The studio defendant attempts to limit the suit to just one movie — 'Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure.'
Orion/Photofest

How is it possible that in this day and age a sophisticated television network can spend many millions of dollars for the exclusive rights to hit movies only to allow those same films to appear on other channels and streaming services for years without objection? This question might be headed for an actual answer.

Back in May, Starz sued MGM for allegedly not honoring an exclusivity pact. Starz Entertainment says it had a deal for MGM's library, including recent James Bond movies as well as Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, Bull Durham, Rain Man, Thelma & Louise, Mad Max, The Terminator and many others. As the complaint states, "Unbeknownst to STARZ, by at least 2015 (and potentially earlier), MGM began granting licenses to the STARZ-exclusive Pictures to other competing content services during the very time periods in which STARZ had the exclusive rights."

2015, you say? Meaning a half a decade when those movies were available elsewhere? Was this really such a secret? Starz is only suing about this now?

In a motion to dismiss filed on Monday, MGM says that's "Starz’s theories of injury and damages are thus premised entirely on the open and public nature of the claimed breaches and infringements," adding, "[N]ot only were sophisticated industry participants apparently aware of MGM’s alleged misconduct, Starz also alleges that when ordinary consumers searched for movies or television shows online, the search results necessarily revealed MGM’s breaches."

MGM requests dismissal on the basis that Starz waited too long to file a complaint in California federal court.

"Whatever motivated Starz to file this lawsuit now, its claims are massively overstated and commercially insignificant," the motion states. "And while MGM will fully expose a host of other fatal defects in Starz's larded-up Complaint in due time, this motion properly seeks dismissal of hundreds of incurably time-barred claims as a matter of law before the parties and the Court expend significant time and resources on meritless litigation."

MGM's attorneys at Gibson Dunn write that Starz's license window on many of the titles closed on March 24, 2016, and that the suit covers old alleged sins. The motion continues, "Although Starz pleaded that MGM violated its rights starting in 2015 or earlier, it has failed to identify any title for which an alleged infringement or breach occurred within either limitations period except for Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. This defect in pleading warrants dismissal of 339 of the 340 titles at issue in the Complaint."

Read the full motion here.