Movie studios can be sued under false advertising laws if they release deceptive movie trailers, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.
U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson issued the ruling in a case involving “Yesterday,” the 2019 film about A World Without The Beatles.
Two Ana de Armas fans filed a lawsuit in January, claiming they rented the movie after seeing Armas in the trailer, only to find out she had been cut from the final film.
Universal tried to throw out the lawsuit, arguing that movie trailers are entitled to broad protection under the First Amendment. The studio’s lawyers argued that the trailer is an “artistic, expressive work” that tells a three-minute story that conveys the theme of the film, and thus should be considered “non-commercial” speech.
But Wilson rejected that argument, finding that the trailer is commercial speech and subject to California’s False Advertising Law and the state’s Unfair Competition Law.
“Universal is right that the trailers have some creativity and editorial discretion, but that creativity does not outweigh the commercial nature of the trailer,” Wilson wrote. Wilson wrote. “Essentially, a trailer is an advertisement designed to sell a movie by giving consumers a preview of the movie.”
In their brief on the matter, Universal’s lawyers argued that the film’s trailers included long clips that did not appear in the finished film. They pointed to “Jurassic Park” (another Universal film), which had a trailer made up entirely of footage not in the movie.
Universal also argued that classifying trailers as “commercial speech” could open the way to a barrage of lawsuits from disgruntled filmmakers, who could subjectively claim that the film lived up to the expectations created by the trailer. are not
“Under the plaintiffs’ argument, the trailer would be stripped of its full First Amendment protections and any time a viewer can claim whether or not a person or scene in the final film was seen and how disappointing it was; with whether The film fits the genre they expected; or any of an infinite number of disappointments the viewer could claim,” argued the studio’s lawyers.
Wilson sought to address this concern, saying that false advertising laws only apply when a “substantial portion” of “reasonable consumers” are misled.
The judge wrote that considering the “Yesterday” trailer, it was acceptable that the audience would expect Armas to be an actress or a scene in the film, and nothing else, “the holding of the court is limited to the performances only. ” A notable role in the film.
D’Armas was originally meant to appear as a love interest for the film’s protagonist, played by Hamish Patel. Patel’s character would meet her on the set of James Corden’s The Talk, where Patel would serenade her with the Beatles song “Something”.
Richard Curtis, the screenwriter, explained that De Armas was cut because audiences did not like the idea of Patel’s character being distant from his first love interest, played by Lily James.
The plaintiffs, Conor Wolff of Maryland and Peter Michael Rozza of San Diego County, California, each paid $3.99 to rent Amazon Prime “yesterday.” They are seeking at least $5 million as representatives of a group of film buyers.
The case will now proceed to motion for discovery and class certification.