R. Reams Goodloe, P.S.
253-859-9128 24722 104th Ave., SE, Suite 102
Kent, Washington 98030-5322
Directions
Intellectual Property
Attorneys at Law
Located in Kent, Washington

Intellectual Property Newsletter

Independent Filmmakers Sue MPAA to End Ban on Release of “Screeners”

“Screeners” are the videotapes and DVD copies of films that are sent to voters in competitions such as the Academy Awards and Golden Globes, so that voters can view the films at home rather than at studio screenings. On September 30, 2003, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) imposed a ban against the pre-award distribution of “screeners” to critics and industry voters. The objective of the ban was to curb “piracy,” or the unlawful copying of the films to be sold on the U.S. black market, overseas, and on the Internet.

Partial Reversal of the Ban

However, in response to the ban, independent filmmakers and other organizations voiced their dissatisfaction, arguing that the screener copies are an essential aid for such filmmakers, providing significant coverage of their films to critics. In late October of 2003, in response to such complaints, the MPAA attempted to reach a compromise by partially reversing the ban. Under the reversal, only 5,600 copies would be sent to Academy Awards voters, but none would be sent to other awards events, including those preceding the Oscars. Smaller producers remained unsatisfied with the partial lift, arguing that competitions leading up to the Oscars were significant indicators to Oscar voters of winning films. However, the MPAA refused to lift the partial ban.

Lifting the Ban Against Pre-Award Release of “Screeners”

In November 2003, several independent film production companies took the dispute to federal court and sued the MPAA to end the ban, based on the claim that the ban violated the Sherman Antitrust Act. The Sherman Antitrust Act is a federal antitrust law that, among other things, prohibits businesses from monopolizing interstate commerce. The MPAA represents seven major movie studios, including Warner Brothers, Columbia Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Paramount, Universal Pictures, Walt Disney Studios and MGM.

The independent producers argued that the MPAA (by enforcing the ban) was conspiring with major movie studios to monopolize the film industry. They further argued that the ban was unnecessarily broad in that it treated all films the same, even though major films are at a substantially higher risk (than independent films) of being pirated. The independent producers sought $25 million in damages against the MPAA.

Temporary Restraining Order

On December 5, 2003, the court granted the independent filmmakers a temporary restraining order (TRO) to prevent the major movie studios from enforcing the MPAA ban against the advanced distribution of “screeners.” The TRO, in effect, prohibited the ban, (including the partial ban) from being effective, allowing independent producers to send out “screeners” to potential award voters. In addition, it served as an admonition to the MPAA that such a ban was a potential violation of antitrust laws.

Settlement

In March 2004, a coalition of independent filmmakers and the MPAA reached an out of court settlement. Although the ultimate terms of the agreement remain undisclosed, the independent filmmakers dismissed the lawsuit. Subsequently, the independent filmmakers’ coalition, in a joint statement by its leaders, stated that in light of their previous success in court regarding the TRO, “the Coalition enabled individual distributors to determine when and in what manner to distribute promotional screeners.” The statement also included an admonition to the MPAA to “engage in an ongoing process in which all constituencies of the industry are guaranteed a voice in the development of effective, fair, and legal anti-piracy policies.”

  • Copyright Ownership in Works Made for Hire
    Ownership of a copyright gives the owner exclusive rights in the copyrighted work, such as the rights to reproduce, distribute, perform and display the work. According to Section 201 of the federal Copyright Act (the Act), copyright... Read more.
  • The History of the Copyright Act
    The copyright laws of the United States, originally inherited from England, have been significantly revised over the years. This article presents a brief historical perspective of legislative enactments that have been significant in... Read more.
  • Supreme Court Finds Copyright Term Extension Act Constitutional
    Congress passed the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA) in 1998.  This revision to U.S. copyright law extends the term of protection for both existing (i.e., already created) and future (i.e., yet to be created)... Read more.
  • Using Trademarks in Internet Keyword Searches
    Over the past few years, Internet search engines, such as Google or Yahoo, have generated large revenues by selling advertising through sponsored links or pop-up ads. For example, businesses pay a fee to Google to have their... Read more.
Intellectual Property News Links
Share This Page:
Designed and Powered by NextClient

2016 - 2019 Law offices of R. Reams Goodloe, P.S. All rights reserved.
Theme WebExpress™ attorney website design by NextClient.com.