Netflix has brought a lot of joy to millions of people worldwide by offering first movies by mail and eventually a pretty decent streaming service with a wide variety of programming. The service even put Blockbuster Video, the former entertainment magnate, out of business. However, it’s not all good news. Sometimes Netflix messes up too, and when they do, the reaction is as big as the company. Here are the ten biggest Netflix lawsuits in company history.
10. George Keritsis v. Netflix, Inc.: The Biggest Outrage
In 2016, George Keritsis filed for a class-action lawsuit over an alleged price-for-life plan that guaranteed subscribers a $7.99 per month price tag forever so long as they never canceled or had their accounts suspended. Ultimately, Netflix raised the price by $2 but lost an estimated four hundred and eighty thousand followers. That’s the sort of hit that might hurt if not for the roughly $520 million in additional annual revenue they raked in.
9. Manhattan’s Satanic Temple v. Netflix, Inc.: Sued By Satanists
The fun but incredibly inaccurate Sabrina The Teenage Witch could have gotten Netflix sued for misrepresenting practitioners of witchcraft or for doing the same to satanism. The two are unrelated and don’t even spring from the same root belief systems. Although it made for an engaging story, it also painted both religions in a bad light. Claiming that people are cannibals is historically one of the most heinous ways to defame an innocent group falsely. However, what ultimately got Netflix in hot legal water was the iconic statue of Baphomet, which the Manhattan Satanic Temple claims to have commissioned for their church before Netflix allegedly stole the exact image and used it for the school in the show.
8. Hollywood Weekly Magazine v. Netflix, Inc.: Tiger King, but Not Joe Exotic
Joe Exotic and Carol Baskin have had their fifteen minutes and plenty more besides. It seems like every time someone says the word Tiger these days, someone plays the song. There was plenty of litigation to go around, but one of the weirdest court cases involved Netflix’s Tiger King documentary. Hollywood Weekly Magazine was the first recorded source to call Joe Exotic the “Tiger King,” so it took offense when Netflix took the name without credit and used it to make a small fortune.
7. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Estate v. Netflix, Inc.: The Softer Side Of Sherlock
Sherlock Holmes is mostly public domain these days, which means anyone can write about him. However, some of the last works remain legally in the hands of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s estate. The estate is famously, though not always successfully, litigious about anyone using their material. When Netflix came out with Enola Holmes, they had all the rights to that original character, but there’s some question about using Sherlock himself. Of all the complaints they could have had CNN London said, “Arthur Conan Doyle’s estate is suing Netflix, among others, over its upcoming film “Enola Holmes” — arguing that the show’s depiction of Sherlock Holmes as kind, caring and respectful of women is a violation of the author’s copyright.”
6. 21st Century Fox v. Netflix, Inc.: Employee Poaching
Back in 2016, Netflix hired a few former Fox employees, and it caused a ruckus. While Netflix protested its innocence and eventually countersued, Fox insisted that Tara Flynn and Marco Waltenberg were still under contract and claimed Netflix had enticed them to breach those contracts. The eventual outcome was that Netflix was barred from soliciting employees under fixed-term employment contracts with Fox or inducing anyone to violate their agreements in the future.
5. Peter Comstock v. Netflix, Inc.: Netflix Movie Rental Information Lawsuit
In 2011, Peter Comstock sued Netflix over alleged Video Privacy Protection Act violations. According to Top Class Actions, the complaint says, ” Subscribers do not realize that Netflix maintains this video-viewing information, along with confidential subscriber payment information, … in its databases long after subscribers cancel their Netflix subscription…” Sadly, this isn’t the first time Netflix has been sued over data privacy issues.
4. SK Broadband v. Netflix, Inc.: Squid Game Squabble
The wildly popular Squid Game has fans on the edge of their seats. Of course, that only applies when fans have internet access. SK Broadband sued Netflix after releasing Squid Game because they allege it crashed the servers. Being sued for your popularity probably isn’t the worst thing that could happen to a company, but it’s still not a good sign that they didn’t plan ahead.
3. Hicks v. Netflix, Inc.: All’s Well The Pay’s Well, Wage Equality Suit
Mo’Nique Hicks told Netflix no when they offered her too little money for an appearance. As a woman who famously knows her worth, they chose the wrong diva to lowball because she didn’t stop there. Hicks filed a lawsuit alleging that Netflix routinely undervalues women and people of color, offering them unequal pay. This case is not yet settled.
2. Chooseco LLC. v. Netflix: Do Not Choose-Your-Own-Adventure
The term Choose-Your-Own-Adventure is the copyrighted property of ChoosecoLLC. You can use the words to describe a legitimate, legal, and licensed Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book or story. However, you can’t co-opt the phrase and take it for your own without asking, which is precisely what Chooseco LLC. alleges Netflix did with Black Mirror: Bandersnatch. Netflix tried to have the case dismissed but was denied, and like many of these court cases, it is still unresolved.
1. Don Cullen v. Netflix, Inc. and National Association of the Deaf v. Netflix, Inc.: Subtitles Are A Legal Right
Netflix has been sued more than twice over subtitles. The company is constantly under scrutiny over its failure to provide consistent, accurate, legal subtitles. Deaf and hard-of-hearing people are entitled to subtitles. It’s a disability accommodation, just like wheelchair ramps. Don Cullen and the National Association of the Deaf are only two more prominent examples of how Netflix has been to court over this issue. We could write a whole list about how Netflix has allegedly failed to provide proper subtitles. Because this affects millions of people who have the legal right to understand what they are seeing, we’re giving these suits the joint number one spot on our list.
Bonus: John Herndon v. Netflix Inc.: Deadly TV
If you’ve been around long enough, then you’ll no doubt remember that Ozzy Ozbourne was sed back in the 1980s when some parents claimed their kids killed themselves over one of his songs. While suicide is certainly no laughing matter, it is documented that people who have suicidal ideations or who take action on those thoughts certainly don’t get them from music but rather from chemicals in their brains, which are often tied to trauma in their real lives. Depression and chemical imbalances in the brain are well-studied and understood. In a modern twist on this now-classic tale, John Herndon alleges that his daughter Bella killed herself because she watched 13 Reasons Why. According to Giant Freaking Robot, he is “…claiming that the teen suicide rate in the United States went up 28.9 percent in April 2017; 13 Reasons Why began streaming on Netflix March 31, 2017.”
Sometimes Netflix has no chill. Other times it seems that the people watching it are to blame. We aren’t here to side with anyone, and only a judge can make the official call on any of these cases. Regardless of the outcomes, many of which are still pending, we hope you learned something interesting about Netflix or the people who sue the streaming company. These are the ten biggest Netflix lawsuits in company history, but there are plenty more to explore if you’re intrigued by the legal battles of the top streaming service on earth.