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Time Warner Sues Unique-DVD.com
April 20, 2011
Thomas Mennecke
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It's little surprise when the MPAA or its member companies go after a site like The Pirate Bay. Just about all parties interested, including torrent users, expect confrontation. But legal action isn't limited to the heavy hitters, just this week Time Warner filed a copyright complaint in US District Court in California against Unique-DVD.com.

So is Unique-DVD.com just another run of the mill movie site? Well there's Hertz, and there's not exactly. Unique-DVD.com is rather, for a lack of a better term, unique. Don't expect to find the latest warez or blockbluster releases at this site. But what you will find, at least in the past, was a large catalog of movies that were never produced into DVD. In essence, Unique-DVD.com "...offers an eclectic mix of outstanding films rescued from near-obscurity by an avid DVD collector."

Did you want to watch the 1987 Kris Kristofferson TV miniseries classic "Amerika"? Or how about an 11 disc DVD set of Humphrey Bogart movies that never made it to DVD? Until today, you could have purchased these movies; however, upon learning about the copyright complaint, Unique-DVD.com was pulled offline by its owner. The Amerika miniseries sold for $39.95 – you’ll now have to settle for VHS.

The site was also unique because it didn't try to pass off the DVDs as the genuine article. Instead, regular DVD-Rs were used, and a sharpie indicated the contents of the DVD. The case was a bit more elaborate, with movie artwork typifying much of Unique-DVD's collection.

But Time Warner submitted it copyright complaint on the 15th, and the rest they say, is history. We are unsure at this time whether the owner intends to fight the charges. Since his site doesn't contain theatrical releases, and it mostly limited to older titles, it's unlikely a court will grant substantive punitive damages. But how can someone believe that selling copied movies isn't copyright infringement? Let's take a peek at Unique-DVD's FAQ:

“I only sell copies of films that have never been released on DVD in the US and probably never will be. Some people call these bootlegs, but I believe that what I'm selling is protected by the "Bern Convention" which essentially states that if a particular film is not commercially available for purchase in the US by the studio that owns it, then it is considered public domain.

“I only sell copies of films that have not been restored, and probably never will be. I acquire films from a variety of sources and often buy copies of films I already own because I am always looking to improve the quality of my inventory. I go to great effort and expense to insure that I am always selling the best quality prints that are available for each title.”

We’ve started scouring the lengthy Bern Convention for something that may support Unique-DVD’s claim. This is certainly one of the more fascinating legal cases that have come about in the copyright realm, we’ll see where it goes from here.

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