Walt Disney is being sued by one of the largest cable TV networks in the US over licenses for its movies such as “Cars” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest”.
Starz Entertainment, which owns the Starz and Encore channels, is asking a U.S. District Court judge in Los Angeles to prevent Disney from selling movies through such services as iTunes during the same period Starz has the right to show them.
The LA Times reported that Starz said that before and during an 18-month window when it licenses Disney movies to run on its channels, the company does have the right to sell DVDs of its films or offer them over the Internet for one-time use or for short periods. But outright sales online violate contracts signed in 1993 and 1999 that made Starz the exclusive cable outlet for many movies made by Disney and its various film units, according to the Starz lawsuit. In addition to iTunes, the lawsuit cites sales on Walmart.com.
In a statement, Disney said Starz had misread its agreement and that the studio had the right to sell its movies “in a wide range of mediums.”
A unit of mogul John Malone’s Liberty Media, Starz reaches 15 million subscribers through its flagship channel. It also offers pay-per-view films and downloads through its Vongo service.
Disney has been quicker than its entertainment rivals to embrace iTunes, the popular music and video downloading service offered by Apple, whose chief executive, Steve Jobs, is a Disney director and its largest stockholder.