Screener ban now in court

A coalition of 14 independent filmmakers have sued the major movie studios seeking to overturn a controversial ban on distributing videos of films competing for awards. A ruling in the case could come as early as this week.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, seeks both a temporary restraining order that would lift the screener ban and $25 million in compensatory damages and unspecified punitive damages. It targets the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), the trade group that represents the studios and imposed the ban.

The independents argue that the ban, which includes all but Oscar voters, gives major studio movies an advantage over independent films when it comes to winning awards that can boost a film’s revenues. It also threatens independent productions because independent filmmakers rely on the screener system to show their movies to the critics and are often unable to secure screening room time in the face of stiff competition.

During a hearing on the case last week, the MPAA’s lawyer, Richard Cooper, claimed the association “has no control over the studios.” Judge Michael Mukasey delayed the proceeding until this week.

The MPAA argues that many of the films are ending up on the Internet and the black market after being sent out to screeners.

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