Baker & McKenzie successfully reached several court rulings for Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, lifting a 32 year old ban of the movie classic "The Evil Dead“ (1981) in Germany.
“The Evil Dead” is the first feature movie of Hollywood director Sam Raimi (Spider Man 1-3) and is nowadays considered a masterpiece of the modern horror movie genre. The movie gave rise to two sequels (1987 and 1992), a remake (2013) and a TV series (“Ash vs. Evil Dead”). In 1984 “The Evil Dead” was first banned by the Local District Court of Munich. The court ruled the movie meets the requirements of depicting violence pursuant to the German Criminal Code. In the following years the movie was subject to further band from both local and district court level. Then, in 1992, the ban of an already edited version of the movie was lifted by the Federal Constitutional Court – in its well-known “Evil Dead” landmark decision (BVerfGE 87, 209). The Federal Constitutional Court also expressed general doubts with the local district courts’ rulings that the movie would violate criminal provisions of depicting violence. However, despite the Federal Constitutional Court’s ruling, the original version of “The Evil Dead” was subject to another eight banning decisions on the local district court level between 1999 and 2015.
On behalf of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Baker & McKenzie started legal proceedings before three different courts against all eight banning decisions the movie was subject to between 1999 and 2015. So far, five decisions have been annulled by different courts. The courts ruled that the movie would not meet the requirements of depicting violence in light of contemporary social and moral standards. Three proceedings are still pending mainly due to formal questions.
The five rulings in favor of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment paved the way to start administrative proceedings against an old “blacklisting” decision by the Federal Review Board for Media Harmful to Minors. Lifting such blacklisting decision is the last step to fully rehabilitate the movie in Germany. Baker & McKenzie are commissioned to take over administrative proceedings as well. Key elements of the mandate also concern advice on all matters of media regulatory and marketing laws in connection with a potential product launch on DVD, Blu-ray and video-on-demand as well as legal possibilities to prevent the distribution of bootlegs.
'The court’s rulings leave no doubt that the movie does not feature any problematic content under today’s social and moral standards. The media landscape and social media competence is subject to constant change. What was considered as breaking a taboo three decades ago is nowadays often no longer perceived as critical or – like in this case – even viewed as an important work of modern art. The decisions are a pivotal signal to the film and video gaming industry. They show that procedural measures to lift old banning decisions exist and re-release the respective content afterwards is possible,' comments Sebastian Schwiddessen, LL.M, IT and media lawyer at Baker & McKenzie.
Baker & McKenzie regularly advises and represents national and international clients in the film and video gaming industry on media regulatory matters. Aside of its focus on key subjects like age-ratings, unlawful content and the installation of age-gating measures, the practice group for IT and media law is currently involved in a number of administrative and legal proceedings regarding the rehabilitation of blacklisted and/or banned entertainment media in Germany. Recent successful legal proceedings also include the rehabilitation of the movie classic “Friday the 13th – Part 3” which was banned in Germany since 1988. “Friday the 13th” is the most successful US horror franchise. Adjusted for inflation, all twelve movies generated more than USD 800 million at the US box office alone. In 2017 a new sequel of movie will hit the theatres.
Legal advisors to Sony Pictures Home Entertainment:
IT and media law: Sebastian Schwiddessen, LL.M. (Associate, Munich)