DETROIT (1 April 2004) – The law firm of Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone, P.L.C. obtained a major victory for its client, the Coalition of Independent Filmmakers, IFP/Los Angeles, IFP/New York, on Monday, March 29, in a case against the Motion Picture Association of America Inc. (MPAA), clearing the way for filmmakers to distribute Hollywood’s awards screeners. Both parties stated on Monday that they have reached a mutually acceptable settlement of the Antidote Int’l Films, Inc. et al. v. MPAA. The parties have agreed to dismiss the pending litigation; the terms of the settlement are confidential. The parties are pleased to have put this matter behind them.
The lawsuit was handled and the settlement was negotiated by Gregory L. Curtner and his legal team in Miller Canfield’s Ann Arbor, Michigan and New York offices. “This is great news for independent filmmakers and consumers, and will further promote fair competition,” said Curtner. “We will stand ready to act again, if necessary, to preserve a free and just marketplace.”
“By obtaining a court order to force the MPAA to lift the screener ban, the Coalition enabled individual distributors to determine when and in what manner to distribute promotional screeners. This season’s awards demonstrate the importance of independent films and independent filmmakers having the opportunity for their work to be seen. We urge 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,” said the Coalition’s Jeff Levy-Hinte; IFP/Los Angeles Executive Director Dawn Hudson; and IFP/New York Executive Director Michelle Byrd in a joint statement.
In December 2003, U.S. District Chief Judge Michael B. Mukasey imposed a preliminary injunction against the MPAA’s screener ban, ruling that the independent filmmakers had successfully demonstrated that the restrictions were a probable violation of the antitrust laws which put the independent filmmakers at a distinct disadvantage during awards season, with damaging long-term impact on future revenue streams.
The ruling was made by Judge Mukasey following an evidentiary hearing in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York enjoining the MPAA from implementing its mandated ban on the promotional distribution of screeners by MPAA signatory distribution companies, their subsidiaries, and co-conspirators: The Walt Disney Company, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Paramount Pictures Corporation, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., Universal Studios, Warner Bros., New Line and Dreamworks.
The plaintiffs listed in the case were: Antidote International Films, Elemental Films, Forensic Films, GreeneStreet Films, Head Quarter Pictures, Independent Digital Entertainment, Independent Entertainment, Killer Films, Open City Films, Paradigm Consulting, Salty Features, Sandcastle 5 Productions, Sanford/Pillsbury Productions, Talking Wall Pictures, This is that Corporation, IFP/Los Angeles, IFP/New York.
Dawn Hudson and Michelle Byrd, the organization’s West and East Coast Executive Directors, emerged during the screener battle as a powerful force in bringing together and lobbying for the independent film community. IFP remains committed to advocacy efforts on behalf of independent filmmakers.
The other key players in the battle include independent film producers Ted Hope of This is that Inc. and Jeff Levy-Hinte of Antidote Films, who was the prime motivator behind the legal action. Both Levy-Hinte and Ted Hope testified in court on behalf of the Coalition. Joshua Astrachan, a producer at Robert Altman’s Sandcastle 5 company, was also instrumental in rousing opposition against the screener ban.
In November 2003, a coalition of independent filmmakers along with IFP/Los Angeles and IFP/New York, put out a statement citing the MPAA’s unlawful ban against the distribution of awards screeners: “This has been a long-term campaign to right the wrong of the MPAA screener ban. We have written letters, placed ads, held meetings, and tried in everyway to get the MPAA to reverse its decision of September 30th. Unlike the major studios — who can buy public awareness through expensive promotional campaigns — independent filmmakers rely on recognition through awards to attract talent, financing, and box office revenues. As a last resort, to protect the interests of independent filmmakers and the film-going public, we have taken the step of seeking court-ordered relief of the ban.”
In addition to Curtner, the Miller Canfield’s legal supporting cast for the plaintiff included attorneys Rick Juckniess, Kimberly K. Kefalas, and Atleen Kaur – all of the Ann Arbor office – and Susan I. Robbins of the New York office. Eric V. McLand in Ann Arbor was the legal assistant.
The 300-attorney law firm of Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone, P.L.C. was established in Detroit in 1852 and has offices in Ann Arbor, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Howell, Kalamazoo, Lansing, Monroe, and Troy, Michigan. Other offices are located in New York City, Pensacola, Florida, Washington, D.C., Windsor, Ontario, and in Gdynia, Katowice, and Warsaw, Poland. Visit www.millercanfield.com.
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