Netflix Mails "Do Not Rent" Screener Disc To Customer

Eric writes:

I just got “The Rules Of Attraction” from Netflix and it’s a screener disc. As a matter of fact, 3 or 4 times through the movie, 5-10 minute sections of the movie have “This is the property of Lion’s Gate Films, This disc is not to be sold or rented”. Interestingly, it was a 2 sided DVD and when I watched the 2nd side, it was a test pattern. No extras, no subtitles, no language options. Just the movie with legal disclaimers overlaid throughout.

While that’s certainly not an appropriate disc to be mailing out, we have no way of knowing how it entered the Netflix supply chain—it’s possible that a previous customer switched out the discs at some point, or that a supplier accidentally included it. We think you should contact Netflix and report the issue so they can remove the disc from circulation and send you a proper copy of the movie.

You can find Netflix’s phone number under the “Help” section—in the lower right corner of the page, under “Contact Customer Service,” click on “Website Questions and Inquiries.” You’ll be given a customer ID number along with the phone number to call.

(Photo: Getty)

Comments

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  1. Overheal says:

    aww why would you want to get netflix in trouble by blowing a public whistle? I would have done that quietly, myself: Netflix are good people.

    • dragonfire81 says:

      @Overheal: Agreed, this seems rather tame compared to other stuff on this site. It was likely an honest mistake.

    • deadandy says:

      @Overheal:
      The stop should have been the editorial decision to post the story. What a non-issue. The danger of flooding this site with non-issues is lessened impact of the real stories.

    • @Overheal: No. Netflix is a company and as such is as liable as any company to make mistakes, which is what this blog is here to discuss.

      Don’t forget that a few years ago Netflix was accused (correctly) of secretly throttling accounts, and when they settled the class action, it was in a very consumer-unfriendly way.

      I love the service Netflix provides, but it is never wrong to point out mistakes, problems, etc.

  2. thetango says:

    Eric, the next time you tell this story you really need to start it with “My wife/girlfriend/significant other got ‘Rules of Attraction’…”

  3. dopplerd says:

    I think the two reasons given for this are very plausable (previous user switch or distributor screw up) based on the fact that there is no possible upside for Netflix on this. Netflix buys a few million DVDs a year so there is ample room for a bad one to get slipped in.

    • the Goat says:

      @dopplerd:
      Netflix claims that they check every disc when it is returned to the company. So even if a customer sent the back disc to them, there is no excuse for them to send it back out.

      True getting one bad disc from Netflix is no big deal. I am sure they will fix this problem. But this shows that they conduct their business in a spotty manor.

      • Keavy_Rain says:

        @the Goat:
        I do not believe that “We check every disc” BS.

        On more than one occasion I have had to return DVD’s to Netflix because the copy they sent me would not play.

        Current records for most “Turnarounds” on Netflix DVD’s are Trekkies and Mallrats at five each.

        This issue isn’t exclusive to Netflix, either. I’ve gotten some messed up games from GameFly, too. Crop circles on the discs, discs that look like they were scrubbed with steel wool, broken cartridges…

        Other people’s children, I tell ya.

  4. Shaftoe says:

    Actually you do not even have to call them, you simply report the problem with the disk on their website and have them send you another. they are very good about that.
    Personally I welcome our new Netflix overlords

  5. Carso says:

    I believe a story ran on Consumerist a while ago about a person who had received a similar set of discs for a series he had rented – they were copies clearly not intended for redistribution. I believe that thread was finally concluded by someone “in the know” pointing out that Netflix often buys promotional copies of discs to rent because they work just as well and they’re cheaper. If I recall, it was concluded that Netflix does this legally, because the “screener” copy is sold as a valid purchase. Bear in mind that “screener” DVDs are only relevant when the movie is in theatres and/or before it can be purchased on a disc. Once a DVD is commercially available, the existence of screener discs and their use is irrelevant.

    • Carso says:

      @Carso: Here is the link to the article I mentioned: [consumerist.com]

      • mzs says:

        @Carso: Thanks for the link. My uncle got in a bind a while back. One time he got a DVD from netflix that looked like a copy plus the menus were messed-up. If I remember correctly it was the first Pirates of the Caribbean but it looked completely like a copy not like those in the url you posted. The front looked like a scanned and then printed ink jet paper label and the back side was that blue color that DVD-Rs are.

        He sent it back and reported it to netfilx so that he could get another copy. He got a form letter email later saying that copying DVDs is illegal and what not and that since he sent back a copied DVD his account would be cancelled! This made him very upset. Someone else copied it kept the original sent in the copy and only after he reported it did they notice. Then someone with probably a very poor command of English assumed that he made a copy and sent it in. Why would he do that?

        He just uses Blockbuster ever since.

    • quail says:

      @Carso: I’d be irked by the constant appearance of things like “screener disc” and “property of…” throughout a movie. Kind of ruins the illusion. Add to the fact that the disc contains no extras. That’s the big benefit of buying or renting a DVD, being able to enjoy the extras. I’d feel cheated if I rented a movie and Netflix sent me one of these. Legal or not, it’s not what most people want in a rental experience.

      • Carso says:

        @quail: You’re right, that would bother me, too. It’s possible that Netflix purchase this in a set of screener discs without realizing that they were punctuated throughout with the “property of…” text. In that case, I’d advise using the website to report a problem with the disc, which another commenter pointed out is a quick and painless way to get a fresh copy.

    • deadandy says:

      @Carso:
      You are misinformed regarding the use of screeners. I used to work in the home video industry and the distributors publish a EULA with each screener that details its legal use. Retailers are explicitly forbidden to sell, rent, or distribute the screeners in any way, even after the film is released.

      • PeterLeppik says:

        @deadandy:
        There was a court ruling on exactly this question just few months ago (involving resale of promo CD’s), and the judge ruled that it was perfectly legal to resell the promotional copies, even though they were prominently labeled “Not For Resale.”

        Under the “First Sale Doctrine,” it is legal to sell, rent, or give away a legally obtained copy of a copyrighted work without any further compensation to the copyright holder. In this court case, the judge ruled that even though the record company claimed that the CD’s were its property, the company behaved that the CD’s were actually a gift (as evidenced by, among other things, the fact that the record company never made any attempt to get the promo CD’s back, and didn’t keep any records of the disposition of the CD’s; both things you would expect if the record company really thought the CD’s were its property).

        Therefore, the judge ruled, the promo CD’s were really gifts, and it was legal for the recipients to resell them.

        Here’s a link to a press release about the ruling: Judge Tosses Universal Music Lawsuit Against Promo CD Seller. The page includes links to the court ruling.

        • deadandy says:

          @PeterLeppik:
          Thank you for the information; I stand corrected. The video store I used to manage was demolished recently, so I guess more than one thing is changing in the industry.

    • GilloD says:

      @Carso: I think you’re getting mixed up./ The previous post was about a disc that LOOKED like a pirate copy. This is pretty normal, studios press a lot of copies for box-less distribution to outlets like netflix.

      THIS post is about a disc that IS a screener, not just looks like one.

  6. GMFish says:

    I’ve received movies from Netflix which were obviously replaced by other customers. For example a disc that was supposed to include several episodes of Transformers (the one where they were robotic animals, whatever that means) was actually one of those single episode “free” DVDs you get when you buy one of the toys.

    • @GMFish: Hey now, Beast Wars was probably the single most well-written and well-produced Transformers series to date. Even won a Daytime Emmy in 1998 for ‘Outstanding Achievement in Animation’.

      And I even have those single episode DVDs that were included with the 10th Anniversary re-issues of some of the figures and considering that they look pretty decent with a quick glance, I could see how Netflix could miss something like that – with a quick glance, mind you. However, looking closer, when a disc simply mentions a single episode like “Code of Hero” (single greatest Transformers episode ever, BTW), it’s clearly not what it’s supposed to be.

      I’m actually surprised that I haven’t wound up with any of these knockoff discs in my years with Netflix. Scratched discs? Sure. Discs nearly cracked in half? Of course. But everything else has been legit.

  7. ShadowFalls says:

    I’ve bought a brand new screener disc from a store before. It was shrink-wrapped and had the same factory label as the one I got it replaced with, which wasn’t a screener. No menus, extras or anything else, “Property of Paramount” So it does happen.

  8. This is a super lame story.

    Next up: Bob bought a gallon of milk at Safeway and it was spoiled.

  9. DarrenO says:

    Ths s f ntrst t th vrg (r vn nn-vrg) cnsmr HW??

    • ZukeZuke says:

      @DarrenO: Agreed, who cares?

      Besides, I believe the screener discs are serialed, either electronically or by an actual stamp on the disc, so they could track it back to the real “owner” if this was a case of the ole switcheroo trick. I remember reading somewhere this is how they often bust screeners that upload their DVDs to Bittorrent, etc.

      • Carso says:

        @ZukeZuke:

        There are a lot of consumers that read this blog who are interested in Netflix and its business practices. One could just as easily make your comment about any number of stories that run on Consumerist. No one forced you to click the link.

    • OldJohnRobinson says:

      @DarrenO: @thetango:

      When the dude from Dawson’s Creek decks the chick from Blade 3…that is the best scene in the movie.

  10. Dyscord says:

    Netflix has some of the best customer service I’ve ever experienced. There have been a few times that I’ve gotten a disc that was scratched up and there was even a time when I got an extra disc that wasn’t in my queue. Everytime they have addressed the issue and sent out the proper disc even before I’ve mailed back the offending disc.

    They are truly one of the very few companies out there with outstanding service.

  11. snoop-blog says:

    This kinda stuff has happened to me with netflix a couple of times and I just assumed it was some shady customer that switched them out with a copy that more than likely was inferior in some way (scratched, or rented copy etc.)

  12. Avrus says:

    Remember, it’s Canadians with camcorders in theatres that are the leading sources of piracy.

    Nothing to see here, move along.

  13. incognit000 says:

    Netflix buys millions of DVDs per year, and they chase the lowest prices. Often this bites them in the butt, as they end up with a low-quality DVD they must replace, or a bad copy, or whatever. They make a good effort, but they’re not perfect. I mean, can we really expect them to buy limited edition box sets with fancy covers that will just be thrown away when the DVDs are shoved into sleeves? My guess is that either one of the given options is plausible. Someone had a screener disc and wanted a “free” real copy, or someone dumped screener discs on a third party distributor and Netflix ended up with it when they showed up and said “We’d like to buy a thousand DVDs, please.”

  14. hankrearden says:

    @ twophrasebark

    +1

  15. howie_in_az says:

    This happened quite a few times when I was with Blockbuster Online. After the first time I just started phoning the MPAA and reporting them.

  16. randomd00d says:

    Ha. I hope that last one was a joke…

  17. booboolee says:

    I love netflix, but i wish i was closer to a distribution center, since i’m really only get one shipment a week.

  18. Bender says:

    This happened to me with Blockbuster Online. I was supposed to get Sleeper Cell season 2 discs 1 and 2 with 4 episodes on each disc.

    The disc 1 I got was a screener copy with only episode 1 on it.