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Judge: Movie Trailers Copyright Protected

August 13, 2003

CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) _ A New Jersey company may not make its own online trailers for Disney and Miramax movies after a federal judge ruled that trailers, like movies themselves, are protected by copyright laws.

U.S. District Judge Jerome B. Siandle wrote in an opinion dated Aug. 7 but delivered to lawyers in the case this week that trailers are not included in the ``fair use″ statute that allows critics, scholars and producers of parody to use quotes and clips from writings, music and other media.

The ruling gives film companies control over how their trailers are used. And in the case of the plaintiff in the suit, Video Pipeline, it means the company cannot sell to Web sites previews of Disney films without Disney’s permission.

``Trailers have become more than advertising material for other products,″ Simandle wrote. ``They have become valuable entertainment content in their own right.″

Paul Fitzmaurice, a lawyer for Video Pipeline, said it was uncertain whether his client would appeal the ruling.

Disney produces its own online trailers. Some, for example, are shown exclusively on Apple Web sites.

Video Pipeline compiles movie clips and trailers to play at video stores. In the late 1990s, the company began selling trailers to companies such as Amazon and Netflix that sell or rent videos and DVDs through their Web sites.

From 1988 until 1993, Disney sent Video Pipeline movie trailers for in-store previews.

In 2000, Disney told Video Pipeline it could no longer use the trailers online.

Video Pipeline agreed to return 95 trailers to Disney. But it also made two-minute ``clip″ previews for 62 Disney films.

The company said it was making advertisements for Disney and said it was protected by the fair use statute. The previews started and ended with Disney logos.

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