Justice alerts Academy about possible Antitrust Law violation

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The U.S.Department of Justice sent a communication to the Academy of Cinematographic Arts and Sciences in indicating that preventing some films from competing for the Oscar statuette is a monopolistic practice.

The document was forceful. The U.S.Department of Justice stated that manipulating or overturning regulations to prevent films produced by Netflix from competing for the Oscars could violate the country's competition laws.

A recent Academy members meeting generated the reaction of the governmental organization. Sources informed that a new rule was being promoted to prevent Netflix from competing since its productions are designed for the streaming television platform and not for cinema, which is why it deserves the Emmy Awards, not the Academy Award.

Such has been the uproar that the Antitrust Division, through its authorities, did not hesitate to point out that the fact that certain types of films such as those distributed through streaming services are excluded from being chosen for Oscar nominations, could violate laws such as the Sherman law that prohibits anti-competitive agreements between competitors, which could generate a drop in sales of excluded films.

The Sherman Act (1890) is the first measure imposed by the U.S. government to limit monopolies. Section 1 delineates and prohibits anti-competitive behaviour, with the aim of favouring international trade.

Spielberg and the other side of the coin

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This debate over whether Netflix films, Amazon Prime’s and others produced by streaming video services qualify to compete for the Oscar has caused controversy in the Academy's most conservative sectors.

Steven Spielberg, for example, one of the most powerful directors in Hollywood, argues that a film that is shown on video as well as in a movie theater should not be considered for an Academy Award.

Netflix and other directors argue that distribution via streaming helps the film reach regions where there is no cinema. The most recent film to be nominated for an Oscar, and produced by a streaming service was Roma. The film was directed by Alfonso Cuarón, and won Best Foreign Film, Best Director and Best Photography.

At the end of 2018 and as a prerequisite for Roma to compete, Netflix screened Alfonso Cuarón's film in some cinemas around the world, but some members of the Academy and industry were not happy that a film that did not have a formal premiere in cinemas earned so many recognitions.

Academy members will reconvene on April 23 to discuss changes to the Oscar rules.

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