September 7, 2009

Video Rentals Good, DVD Rentals Bad [5:49 pm]

First sale doctrine and rentals: Movie Studios See a Threat in Growth of Redbox (pdf)

In 1982, just as the VHS tape was taking off, a “Star Wars” buff named Mitch Lowe had a radical idea. What about building a vending machine that could rent movies? He called his invention Video Droid.

It failed. [...]

But Mr. Lowe did not give up, and his moment seems to have finally come.

Mr. Lowe, 56, is now the president of Redbox, a fast-growing company in Illinois that rents movies for $1 a day via kiosks. [...]

Redbox’s growth — it started with 12 kiosks in 2004 and now processes about 80 transactions a second on Friday nights — has Hollywood’s blood boiling. Furious about a potential cannibalization of DVD sales and a broader price devaluation of their product, three studios (20th Century Fox, Warner Brothers and Universal) are refusing to sell DVDs to Redbox until at least 28 days after they arrive in stores.

Redbox is suing them on antitrust grounds. [...]

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