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This is going to be a long question:

I'm working on creating a company to stream the latest and greatest movies that haven't reached Netflix yet. In order to do this, my plan is to buy, say, 10 Harry Potter DVDs, and rip one of them. We will then monitor how many people are streaming it and limit it to 10, the number of DVDs we have. It won't hurt the sales of the movie, because we're purchasing the correct number of DVDs.

This is equivalent to just sending a DVD to a user, just online. We won't lend out(a.k.a. stream) more DVDs than we have.

Update: How is Vidangel legal if they do just this?

  • This is probably not legal, although I'll leave the analysis to someone else. – ohwilleke Jan 8 '18 at 19:00
  • I'm assuming you plan on charging for the service, in which case the answer is almost certainly no. Even renting the DVD out commercially is probably still a no. Just buying a DVD alone only grants you a personal, non-commercial license for use of that DVD. It does not grant you any commercial rights to then start renting it out. You need a different license for that. – animuson Jan 8 '18 at 20:38
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    @animuson Renting the physical DVD out commercially is O.K. under the first sale doctrine. – ohwilleke Jan 8 '18 at 21:52
  • @ohwilleke, i.e. letting a person rent the physical DVD (not streaming from a specific physical copy, which is commonly called "renting" a video). – user6726 Jan 8 '18 at 21:54
  • @user6726 Absolutely. – ohwilleke Jan 8 '18 at 21:57
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This is not legal.

Buying a consumer DVD grants a licence for personal use - you can watch it, you can watch it with friends and family, you can lend it to friends and family so they can watch it. You cannot display it to the public.

Services like Netflix have commercial licences with the copyright owners that allow them to do what they do. The copyright owners decide when and if they will sell that licence to Netflix and this is informed by how their DVD sales are going.

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