LOS ANGELES, March 22 /PRNewswire/ -- Starz Entertainment, LLC, today
filed suit against Buena Vista Television (BVT), a subsidiary of The Walt
Disney Co., for copyright infringement and breach of contract. Starz filed
the suit in the US District Court for the Central District of California
because Disney recently began to sell for transmission over the Internet
the same movies that Disney licensed exclusively to Starz.
Under the terms of the 1993 and 1999 Starz-BVT agreements, extended by
BVT in 2005, Disney is prohibited from selling its films for transmission
over the Internet prior to Starz's first exclusive license period and
during all of Starz's exclusive license periods.
Despite this prohibition, the suit notes that Disney has "begun to sell
over the Internet via services like Apple Computer Corp.'s iTunes and (Wal-
Mart Corp's) Walmart.com the very same Disney films licensed to Starz."
Such conduct, the suit adds, constitutes "a blatant breach" of the
licensing agreements between BVT and Starz. The suit notes that over the
life of the contract Starz has paid "over one billion dollars" for periods
of exclusive rights to the films.
Starz Entertainment Chief Executive Officer and Chairman Robert B.
Clasen said, "Disney has been a great partner. We hope to continue our
relationship. But our agreements clearly prohibit them from selling their
movies by electronic download over the Internet while they are exclusive to
Starz. If Disney is permitted to violate our contract in this manner, it
will undermine the integrity of copyright in general which is a cornerstone
of our industry."
Clasen added, "The film studios have been very aggressive, and quite
rightly so, in protecting their copyrights, particularly with regard to the
Internet. Starz must be equally aggressive in protecting the value of the
deal it made. It is especially disappointing to see one of the largest
studios ignore so blatantly its own contractual obligations to protect the
copyrights it has licensed to Starz."
Clasen pointed out that Starz has been a pioneer in Internet delivery
of films, investing millions of dollars to develop, launch and market its
Internet service last year. Starz delivers more than a thousand movies per
month -- including the Disney films -- to subscribers via broadband
Internet connections. "We want to encourage consumers to have every
opportunity to access a wide array of films over the Internet," Clasen
said. "But we cannot allow Disney to sell those rights to us on an
exclusive basis and then sell the same rights to other parties."
The suit notes that the licensing agreements do allow Disney to
distribute its films on a pay-per-view or on-demand basis defined as "the
viewing of a motion picture by a consumer who is charged a fee to view the
film over a limited period of time." It also permits home video
distribution where consumers may purchase or rent "a motion picture
embodied in a video device which is a physical entity (including, without
limitation, video cassette, laser video disc and DVD)."
But the suit points out that -- other than these clearly defined
exceptions -- the agreements prohibit BVT from licensing its films "for
exhibition in any form of television or electronic delivery."
The suit seeks to prevent BVT "from continuing to infringe on Starz's
rights" and asks for all profits BVT has realized from its infringing
Starz Entertainment is the exclusive subscription television and
broadband provider of first-run films from leading Hollywood studios
including Walt Disney Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Overture
Films, Revolution Studios, Miramax Films, Touchstone Pictures, Hollywood
Pictures, Pixar, TriStar, Screen Gems, Sony Classics and Warren Miller
Films. Select first-run theatrical films from The Weinstein Company, IFC
and Yari Film Group are also available for subscription television and
broadband exclusively on Starz Entertainment services. A vast collection of
classic and favorite titles are provided by a wide array of other Hollywood
As one of the largest content aggregators in Hollywood, Starz
Entertainment has access to thousands of theatrical films that it makes
available on the Starz services and Vongo including The Chronicles of
Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Silent Hill, Sin City, The
Wild, The Aviator, Hitch, Bewitched, and Fun with Dick and Jane. Movies
coming later in 2007 to Vongo subscribers includes, The Da Vinci Code,
Cars, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, and Pirates of the
Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest.
About Starz Entertainment
Starz Entertainment, LLC, is a premium movie service provider operating
in the United States. It offers 16 movie channels including the flagship
Starz(R) and Encore(R) brands with approximately 15.5 million and 27.3
million subscribers respectively. Starz Entertainment airs more than 1,000
movies per month across its pay TV channels and offers advanced services
including Starz HD, Starz On Demand and Vongo(SM). Starz Entertainment
(www.starz.com) is an operating unit of Starz, LLC, which is a wholly owned
subsidiary of Liberty Media Corporation that is attributed to Liberty
Capital Group (Nasdaq: LCAPA, LCAPB).
(720) 852-5821(303) 513-3758 (cell)
SOURCE Starz Entertainment, LLC