Maybe You Should Go Ahead and Hawk Those Oscar Screeners

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Maybe You Should Go Ahead and Hawk Those Oscar Screeners

Fri Jul 18, 2008 @ 05:35PM PST

Posted by Eriq Gardner

Oscar It's been widely assumed within the industry that any Oscar voter who gets a DVD screener or any music critic who is sent an advance promotional CD cannot sell these items online. Typically, they are stamped with a warning that makes clear that the sent item is "licensed to the intended recipient for personal use only."

But Benjamin Mulcahy at Sheppard Mullin has posted a legal analysis of a recent judicial decision in UMG v. Augusto, where the court determined that the record company had transferred title when it mailed promotional CDs to music insiders. Even though Universal Music Group claimed in the case that it was offering a limited license and even though the recipients got the CDs for free, the court ruled that "the music industry insiders' ability to indefinitely possess the Promo CDs is a strong incident of ownership through a gift or sale." In other words, they are free to do with the CDs as they like, including sell them.

Mulcahy believes that the decision has larger implications. Not only will the entertainment industry have to be more careful about what and to whom it sends things out, but the decision could interfere with dealmaking made with digital vendors. For example, some vendors like iTunes treat the transfer of music and movies more like licenses than sales, limiting what one can do with a digital file such as the amount of times one can burn it onto a CD or DVD. The decision, Mulcahy writes, "could undermine the ability of content owners and technology providers to legally enforce such restrictions."

Universal has already appealed the decision.

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The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to [email protected]

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