Economics

DVD Rental Kiosks Are Corrupting the Children Hurting My Business

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Yesterday, I blogged about the president of the U.K.'s National Federation of Fish Fryers, who found new bureaucratic guidelines about the width of chips "totally unfair," and thus demanded that their competitors get screwed, too:

'We will be opposing this as much as we can until they make it a level playing field and start asking McDonald's, KFC and Burger King to change their chip sizes too.'

Today brings a new installment of the convince-government-punish-your-competitors sweepstakes, this one in the U.S. of A. Video rental stores in Indiana (already in trouble thanks to Netflix and On Demand) demanded that the county prosecutor go after Redbox, those neat little $1 video rental kiosks in supermarkets and drugstores, for making R rated movies available without age checks:

"I'm not on a crusade," said Paul Black, an Evansville attorney who says he suggested the inquiry to [the county prosecutor's] office on behalf of a client who operates several video store locations. "We're just looking for a level playing field here."

I particularly like the gentle use of the word "suggested." I know I always ask my lawyer to make "suggestions" for me. In writing. To government officials.

nooooooooo! he's renting "Milk"

The video store lawyer seems to have "suggested" that from now on the kiosks should stock only G movies. Otherwise kids could get ahold of an R- or PG-rated film without their parents' knowledge—something that is currently completely impossible in any other venue, as everyone who was ever an American middle-schooler knows.

Of course, Vanderburgh County Prosecutor Stanley Levco—in a classic political Pavlovian response to the phrase "for the children"—happily obliged. He sent out "letters threatening legal action against retailers providing space" to the perfidious kiosks of sin and temptation, thus soothing the concerns about the well-being of the children and allowing the lawyer for Redbox's competitors to sleep better at night.

As it turns out, This story actually has a happy ending for more people than just one guy with some letterhead paper and a J.D. After some press attention, the county prosecutor announced this morning that he had decided to drop the case:

Levco now says he believes a trial against Redbox and other movie kiosk owners would be a waste of his resources and that a non-guilty verdict would be returned. He said the prosecution of kiosk owners goes against community sentiment.

When you translate that out of Prosecutorial Press Conference-ese and into English, he's saying "My bad. I got suckered. Sorry." Baby steps.