U.S. Justice Department warns Oscars about blocking Netflix from awards

A still from the Oscar-winning Netflix movie, 'Roma.'. Netflix

The U.S. Department of Justice is warning the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences any rule changes to limit the eligibility of films by Netflix and other streaming sites could be in violation of competition laws and raise antitrust concerns.

In a letter obtained by VarietyMakan Delrahim, chief of the DOJ’s Antitrust Division, sent a letter to Academy CEO Dawn Hudson on March 21, expressing concerns that potential rule changes would be written “in a way that tends to suppress competition.”

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“In the event that the Academy — an association that includes multiple competitors in its membership — establishes certain eligibility requirements for the Oscars that eliminate competition without pro-competitive justification, such conduct may raise antitrust concerns,” the letter reads.

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“Accordingly, agreements among competitors to exclude new competitors can violate the antitrust laws when their purpose or effect is to impede competition by goods or services that consumers purchase and enjoy but which threaten the profits of incumbent firms.”

READ MORE: Steven Spielberg takes shot at streaming, urges filmmakers to make movies for ‘a big dark theatre’

The letter comes after it was revealed director Steven Spielberg, an Academy member, would be pushing for eligibility rule changes surrounding films that debut on Netflix and other streaming services at the same time they receive a theatrical release to qualify for the Oscars. New rules would make 2019 nominees Roma, which nabbed three Oscars, including Best Director, and the Coen brothers’ The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs ineligible.

It was later revealed Spielberg had partnered with Apple’s new streaming service, Apple+ to create new content, leaving many to criticize his attack on Netflix.

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The Academy confirmed receipt of the letter, adding the Board of Governors’ annual awards rules meeting is scheduled for April 23 “where all branches submit possible updates for consideration.”

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In the wake of Spielberg’s comments last month, Netflix released a statement via Twitter, championing access to cinema while not directly mentioning the Schindler’s List director or his comments.


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