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DOJ Warns Excluding Netflix From Oscars Could Violate Law

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The Department of Justice has sent a letter to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, saying that the organization may be violating antitrust laws by proposed rule changes that limit the eligibility of Netflix Inc. (NFLX) and other online streaming services for the Oscars.

In a letter to Academy CEO Dawn Hudson, the DOJ has warned that if the Academy establishes certain eligibility requirements for the Oscars that eliminate competition with pre-competitive justification, it may raise antitrust concerns. The letter was first published by entertainment website Variety.

"If the Academy adopts a new rule to exclude certain types of films, such as films distributed via online streaming services, from eligibility for the Oscars, and that exclusion tends to diminish the excluded films' sales, that rule could therefore violate Section 1," Makan Delrahim, the chief of the DOJ's Antitrust Division, said in the letter.

Netflix's production "Roma" won three Oscars at this year's Academy Awards, but the streaming service's inclusion in the ceremony was criticized by Steven Spielberg, an Academy board member and multiple Oscar-winning filmmaker.

Spielberg has said Netflix films should be included in the annual Emmy Awards for the television industry, instead of the Oscars, as these films commit to a television format.

Spielberg has reportedly been pushing others on the Academy's board for making eligibility changes to bar films that debut on streaming services or have only a limited exclusive run in theaters from contention for the Oscars.

In response to Spielberg's comments, Netflix said on Twitter last month, "We love cinema. Here are some things we also love. Access for people who can't always afford, or live in towns without theaters. Letting everyone, everywhere enjoy releases at the same time. Giving filmmakers more ways to share art. These things are not mutually exclusive."

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