Film Friday – Movie Ratings & Smoking-Related Deaths?

Happy Film Friday folks! Film studios and trade associations are under siege in a lawsuit aiming to ban tobacco imagery in; “G,” “PG,” and “PG-13” rated films. The complainants in the suit attribute “smoking-related” deaths to the film industry. In a recent turn of events, the defendants recently filed a motion seeking to end the lawsuit with an anti-SLAPP motion.

Hollywood argues that movie ratings constitute nothing more than “opinions”, as does the trademark registration. Therefore, movie-watchers should not hold movie studios and other organizations accountable for misrepresentation claims. Movie ratings make no guarantees or promises; rather they only serve to caution the audience of the content in the film. With that said, the complainants will be forced to hurdle through leaps and bounds to establish that movie ratings carry more weight than an opinion.

Another concern in the lawsuit is whether or not movie ratings, which have a commercial component, should have First Amendment protection. If movie ratings are held as “protected speech” under the First Amendment then it could serve as a bar for Hollywood; potentially ending the case.

If the court ends up denying the anti-SLAPP motion, the defendants will be in precisely the position they do not want to be in. A full-fledged lawsuit is headed to the jury. Stay tuned!

Credit: Mark Milshteyn

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