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What is a DVD Disclaimer?

By Robert Grimmick
Updated May 16, 2024
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A Digital Versatile/Video Disc (DVD) disclaimer is a type of legal statement designed to protect the company or individual issuing the DVD from legal liability. This statement may notify viewers that a movie studio is not responsible for opinions expressed in bonus content or commentary, warn viewers against trying dangerous stunts at home, or notify viewers that a film or television show has been modified in some way. Unlike other types of disclaimers, a DVD disclaimer may employ technological methods to prevent the message from being skipped.

Similar to other disclaimers, a DVD disclaimer is a legal statement designed to protect a movie studio or distribution company against certain kinds of liabilities. Some disclaimers may also include conditions of use that specify consumer rights over the media content purchased. A disclaimer does not, however, have absolute power to limit someone’s rights. For example, a film critic can use a quote from a film in a review under a “fair use” exception to copyright law regardless of disclaimers that prohibit any form of copying or reproduction.

One common form of DVD disclaimer advises audiences that any opinions expressed in audio commentary tracks belong to those who recorded the commentary and don’t necessarily reflect the views of the studio. This is an example of a legal concept called voluntary repudiation, meaning that the studio refuses to acknowledge any responsibility for what may be said in the commentary track. A DVD disclaimer may also be used in content that features professional stunts that would be dangerous to attempt at home, content that has been edited or altered in some form, or bonus features that may be unrated.

Some DVDs have included special or unique disclaimers. Disney®, for example, has included disclaimers with some of its movies that prominently feature dogs, thereby encouraging people to thoroughly research a breed before any adoption or purchase. Special “screener” discs distributed before the Academy Awards® now contain very specific disclaimers informing members of the Academy that the movie is being provided for Oscar consideration only. Satirical disclaimers also can be found on a few DVDs, sometimes immediately before or after the real disclaimer they are mocking.

Disclaimers have been a part of the entertainment industry since at least the 1930s, when an elite Russian family successfully sued a movie studio over a fictitious rape scene involving a character that closely resembled a real Russian princess. A DVD disclaimer is somewhat unique in that it can use technological methods to ensure a viewer sees the statement. Many commercial DVDs contain a mechanism called a User Operation Prohibition (UOP) that prevents most DVD players from skipping or fast-forwarding through certain parts of the disc. This is commonly used for a copyright and disclaimer notice that informs viewers of the film’s copyright status, and can be used for other types of disclaimers, notices, or warnings as well.

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