Movie Exec Says Studios Should Stop Sending Out DVD Screeners For The Oscars

from the this-has-been-tried dept

One of Jack Valenti's last great "battles" as the head of the MPAA was his fight against DVD screeners sent out for the various movie awards events. Valenti felt that sending screeners of all the nominated movies was a key factor contributing to unauthorized copies getting out into the world and on the internet. So he instituted a ban on sending out such screeners. This pissed off just about everyone. A bunch of really famous movie directors demanded that he drop the ban and the LA Film Critics Association actually canceled their own awards event in protest. Then, a bunch of independent film producers sued the MPAA. Basically, everyone pointed out that without the screeners, many of the voters simply wouldn't be able to see the movies being voted on, and that would hamper any awards effort -- especially for more independent films. Eventually, a judge sided with the producers, and explained to Valenti that he could not ban DVD screeners.

The following year, he came up with another plan, which involved special screener DVDs that only played on a special DVD player, which each voter would have to get and set up themselves. In other words, it was a "solution" that was a huge pain in the ass for everyone -- especially those who already had a perfectly good home theater setup. After a few years of everyone bitching and complaining about this, the MPAA finally relented in 2007, and went back to just sending out normal DVDs as screeners.

Apparently, some folks in the industry don't know their history. At the "Content Protection Summit" that we recently discussed, a VP from Summit Entertainment, the indie studio who has had some success lately thanks to the Twilight films and The Hurt Locker, apparently told the audience that the industry should get rid of DVD screeners, and who cares if it inconveniences people. She specifically said "we're going to have to agree to be inconvenienced." Apparently, she's totally unaware of how badly that worked out last time around -- especially for independent studios like her own.

Of course, it shouldn't be much of a surprise that Summit Entertainment thinks this way. The company has built up quite a reputation for being an intellectual property bully. In the past 15 months or so, we've had multiple different stories of Summit's overly aggressive attempts at IP enforcement, often threatening or suing people doing completely reasonable things, such as creating a fanzine or filming a documentary about the town where Twilight is supposed to take place. And that's not even getting into questions about The Hurt Locker and its lawsuit campaign against thousands of file sharers -- because that was really done by the movie's producers, Voltage, rather than Summit. Of course, all these actions are doing is reminding me to avoid any pictures associated with Summit.

Filed Under: dvds, movies, screeners
Companies: mpaa, summit entertainment

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  1. icon
    fogbugzd (profile), 9 Dec 2010 @ 12:47pm

    Central Question

    One central question in all of this. Did prohibiting screeners or requiring special DVD players significantly reduce piracy?

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