Movie Studios Can Now Be Sued For Deceptive Trailers

Don’t you just hate it when trailers lie to you? Well, that may no longer be an issue. Thanks to a new ruling by U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson, fans can now sue movie studios for deceptive trailers.

This all started with a case involving the 2019 movie Yesterday. The trailer for the film included clips of actress Ana de Armas (Knives Out) where she was meant to play a love interest for lead actor Himesh Patel but when two fans rented the movie, they were upset to learn that the actress was cut out of the film despite what was shown in the trailers.

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So they sued the studio, Universal Pictures.

Universal tried to throw out the lawsuit, arguing that movie trailers are entitled to protection under the First Amendment as a trailer is an “artistic expressive work” and should be considered as “non-commercial” speech.

Judge Wilson rejected the argument, saying that a trailer is in fact commercial speech. “Universal is correct that trailers involve some creativity and editorial discretion, but this creativity does not outweigh the commercial nature of a trailer,” Wilson wrote. “At its core, a trailer is an advertisement designed to sell a movie by providing consumers with a preview of the movie.”

The two fans are seeking at least US$5 million.

Part of the lawsuit reads, “Among other deceptions, Defendant’s (Universal) nationwide advertising and promotion of the movie Yesterday represents to prospective movie viewers that the world-famous actress Ana de Armas has a substantial character role in the film. Defendant’s movie Yesterday, however, fails to include any appearances of Ana de Armas whatsoever. Accordingly, Defendant’s advertising and promotion of the movie Yesterday is false, misleading and deceptive.”

This case could set a creative precedent within the movie industry. While it is not uncommon for movie trailers to include footage that does not actually appear in the finished film, this new ruling opens the door to more lawsuits.