Legal Roundup: Deceptive Movie Trailers, Racist Algorithms, Canceled Concerts and More

Are movie trailers “artistic, expressive works” or mere advertisement? A case currently before a U.S. district court could have big implications for studios’ future liability.
By: | January 8, 2023

Was Ana de Armas in That Movie? Deceptive Trailer Case Can Proceed

The Case: Two viewers of the film Yesterday sued Universal after seeing a trailer featuring popular actress Ana de Armas, who was actually cut from the final version of the film.

The film depicts a world where The Beatles don’t exist, allowing protagonist Jack Malik to sing their songs as his own. (It’s a fun movie worth watching.)

De Armas was supposed to play Jack’s secondary love interest but was cut from the film, despite remaining in the trailer. Variety reports: “Universal sought to throw out the lawsuit, arguing that movie trailers are entitled to broad protection under the First Amendment. The studio’s lawyers argued that a trailer is an ‘artistic, expressive work’ that tells a three-minute story conveying the theme of the movie, and should thus be considered ‘non-commercial’ speech.”

Scorecard: U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson ruled that the studio can indeed be sued for false advertising and declined to dismiss the case.

In the ruling, Wilson said movie trailers are subject to California False Advertising Law and the state’s Unfair Competition Law because they are an “advertisement designed to sell a movie by providing consumers with a preview of the movie,” according to Variety.

Takeaway: Are trailers art or ads? The case may set a precedent for film trailers going forward.

State Farm Accused of Racial Discrimination with Claims Algorithm

The Case: Jacqueline Huskey sued State Farm, claiming that the company does not treat Black home insurance customers equally.

Huskey says assessment for hail damage on her property was repeatedly delayed, and she was unfairly denied part of her claim.

WGLT.org reports: “The filing claims the Bloomington-based company uses computer algorithms that have the effect of disproportionately delaying claims of African American homeowners. White homeowners were almost a third more likely than Black homeowners to have their claim processed expeditiously — in less than a month. It alleges the company is 39% more likely to ask for additional information from Black homeowners.” State Farm said it takes the filing seriously.

Scorecard: The case has recently been filed and has not yet come to a resolution.

Takeaway: It’s not the first time that a minority group has claimed that a computer algorithm is discriminatory.

Perhaps the most famous case is when Amazon’s facial recognition falsely matched 28 members of Congress with criminal mugshots.

It’s also not the only racial discrimination case State Farm is facing. Vvonaka Richardson said she was “unlawfully terminated” in 2020 and that African American employees are paid substantially less than other employees while being subjected to heightened scrutiny. That case was also recently filed and has not reached a resolution.

Judge Rules Against Metallica in COVID Lawsuit Versus Lloyd’s

The Case: Heavy metal band Metallica has sued Lloyd’s of London, claiming that they are owed financial compensation for South American shows that were set to take place in April 2020 but were ultimately canceled due to COVID-19.

The band sued after Lloyd’s initially denied claims under the the band’s “cancellation, abandonment and non-appearance insurance,” according to Metal Injection. The publication reports that “the denial stems from Lloyd’s citation of the policy’s communicable disease exclusion, which Metallica said is ‘an unreasonably restrictive interpretation of the policy’ and is being called a breach of contract.”

Scorecard: It’s “exit light, enter night” for this case, as Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Holly J. Fujie declined the band’s claim, saying that the pandemic led to the travel restrictions that caused the concert cancellations.

Takeaway: Although more high-profile, this case has followed a similar path as almost every other case involving COVID-19 business interruption where insurers successfully claimed that the pandemic was not a covered event. &

Jared Shelly is a journalist based in Philadelphia. He can be reached at [email protected].