Video Lawsuit and First Sale

ICv2 reports that video store owners are suing “in an attempt to prevent the Weinstein Co. (and its affiliate Genius Products) from printing notices on their DVDs indicating that only Blockbuster can legally rent them…. according to Genius Products CEO Trevor Drinkwater, ‘those DVDs will contain a message that they are for sale only and that they should not be rented.’ Under the First Sale Doctrine the Weinstein Co. does not have the right to tell anyone who buys one of their DVDs that they can’t rent it, but the retailers who brought the suit are adamant that the message on the DVDs amounts to defamation and could be a detriment to business.”

The first sale doctrine, according to Wikipedia, “allows the purchaser to transfer (i.e. sell or give away) a particular, lawfully made copy of the protected work without permission once it has been obtained.” That’s what allows me to sell my back issues of a comic for either less or more than the price printed on the cover, for instance.

I mention this case here not because it specifically has anything to do with comics, but because more and more producers of entertainment product think that they have the right to control what you do with it after you buy it, and it’s a trend that disturbs me. Once I legally purchase a product, it’s mine. I can’t make copies, but I can do whatever I want with the item, whether it’s cutting it up to make art or renting it out (if I can find someone to lease it) or reselling it for whatever price the market will bear. I know some creators have bristled at the idea of libraries and used book stores, under the impression that anyone who wants to read their works should have to pay full price, but I think those kinds of options are important to society.

It’s interesting to note that the ICv2 article doesn’t make mention of the elephant in the corner. If I read that Blockbuster’s inked a deal to be the exclusive rental partner of a company, I don’t think about independent video stores (in fact, I’m kind of surprised to be reminded of such a thing) — I think about Netflix.

One Response to “Video Lawsuit and First Sale”

  1. Dwight Williams Says:

    You’re not alone in finding this trend disturbing. “Disturbing”, in fact, is one of the milder words I’d use to describe the situation as it currently stands and appears to be trending towards.




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