Thursday, March 27, 2008

Sorry Yari: No Legal Relief for Crash Producer Denied an Oscar

Crash producer Bob Yari wanted the opportunity to thank the Academy. The movie won an Oscar, but all Yari got was the chance to sue the Academy -- a poor substitute for a golden statuette, even in litigation-happy Hollywood. And even more of a letdown, his suit isn't winning any awards either.

The backstory: Crash won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2006. Best Picture Oscars are given to the producers of the winning movie. Yet, of the six Crash producers, only two received Oscars, and Yari wasn't one of them.

That's because the Academy -- relying on judgments rendered by the Producers Guild -- only awards Oscars to producers who perform the "major portion of the producer function" on the winning movie (and, even then, there's a limit of three producers). That rule was adopted in 2005 in response to the proliferation of producer credits.

So, the Producers Guild evidently decided that Yari didn't meet the criteria. Yari disagreed, and sued both the Academy and the Producers Guild, claiming that the alleged denigration of his role on the picture damaged his professional standing. He argued that the Academy and Producers Guild are quasi-public organizations and thus have an enforceable duty to use fair procedures. The trial court was unpersuaded, and granted judgment in favor of the defendants.

Now, in a decision reported earlier this week, the Court of Appeal has agreed with the trial court, holding that the Academy and Producers Guild are private organizations, and thus not subject to the duty of fair procedure. That seems right (and is also not clear what, if anything, was unfair about the Academy's procedures). The Court also pointed out that Yari's career does not actually seem to have suffered. All in all, not a good day for Yari.

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