New Ruling Declares Studios Potentially Liable For ‘Deceptive’ Movie Trailers

U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson ruled in favor of the plaintiff’s claims that the trailer fell under false advertising laws, despite an argument from Universal’s lawyers that trailers, like movies, are “artistic, expressive work” and protected under the First Amendment as “non-commercial speech.” The judge did not agree, stating that while there is creative artistry at work in movie trailers, their primary job is to advertise.

Basically, the ruling says that it is possible to sue movie studios if they include scenes and/or actors in the trailer that don’t appear in the movie. That doesn’t mean the lawsuits would succeed in court, but the door is now open, and that’s very bad news for movie studios.

On the one hand, the judge isn’t wrong about a trailer’s primary job being to sell the movie. It’s hard to argue against that decision, but a movie trailer isn’t as cut and dry as, say, a furniture store advertising one brand of sofa for one price and never having it actually available in store. Trailers are often released well before the final film is finished, which is why you’ll see scenes that don’t make the cut or different effects shots. The necessity to advertise a movie with a long lead time is going to mean there’s always a risk that moments used in the trailer will not end up in the finished film.

Is that fair to audiences? That’s up for debate, but it is what it is. Another thing to consider is that some studios use trailers to intentionally mislead the audience.¬†Sometimes that’s done in subtle ways to surprise the audience with a different tone or plot twist, and sometimes it’s done as a blatant lie (looking at you, Marvel).

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