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Disney sues Dish Network

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The Walt Disney Co. has filed a copyright lawsuit against Dish Network, according to Reuters. The studio is alleging that the satellite television operator had handed out films like Toy Story 3 and Alice in Wonderland to Dish subscribers for free on Starz without the company’s permission. (Starz also filed a complaint against Dish.) Starz is normally a paid subscriber network like HBO or Showtime, but Disney says Dish has been providing the channel gratis to all its 14 million customers through Jan. 2012. Disney claims it had only allowed Starz to air its movies “with the understanding that Starz would be on a premium tier with distributors.” The violation, the suit says, began in February; Disney had sent a cease-and-desist letter to Dish in March, and Disney alleges Dish refused to cooperate.

Dish Network released the following statement regarding the suit: “DISH Network pays hundreds of millions of dollars for the right to distribute STARZ content to our customers, which includes the rights to a number of Disney movies, and our current distribution of Disney content on STARZ is permitted under our contract with STARZ. DISH Network does not have visibility to the contract between STARZ and Disney, but we will vigorously defend our rights against any attempt to drag our customers into the middle of their dispute.”