First Amendment Victory for Motion Picture Association of America

Munger, Tolles & Olson represented the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and its six member studios, in successfully defending against a putative class action alleging that the motion picture rating service—CARA (which is jointly administered by the MPAA and the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO)—misled consumers by not automatically applying an “R” rating to any movie featuring any tobacco imagery.

Defendants filed a motion to strike the lawsuit under California’s anti-SLAPP statute, and an alternative motion to dismiss the action under Rule 12(b)(6). Plaintiff Timothy Forsyth contended the anti-SLAPP statute did not apply because the ratings are unprotected commercial speech.  On Nov. 10, 2016, U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg held that the ratings constitute protected speech under the anti-SLAPP statute and First Amendment, because films are expressive works and the ratings represent CARA’s opinions. Judge Seeborg held that the Plaintiff failed to state a claim for relief. The court granted the anti-SLAPP motion and dismissed the complaint.

The Munger Tolles team included Kelly M. Klaus, Glenn D. Pomerantz, Adam I. Kaplan and Achyut J. Phadke.