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First challenging of theatrical distribution of movies in constitutional court

Russian movie theatrical distributor has filed complaint to Russian constitutional court in order to challenge the rules for theatrical distribution. The distributor believes these rules are of censorship nature. The complaint states on violation of freedom and rights by the actions of Russian ministry of culture (MinCult). MinCult has the rights to shift release dates almost of any film in Russia or repeal the permission for theatrical distribution at all.

This entire story with complaint was caused by the film about Stalin, which was forbidden for theatrical distribution in Russia. The MinCult has repealed all permissions provided to applicants, i.e. theatrical distributors. These distributors have sold out all tickets and were obliged to turn all money for tickets they sold. More over the claimant has been fined for showing the movie without valid permission from MinCult. The fine was the quarter of million Russian roubles. Besides, the claimant has paid remuneration to right holder for theatrical distribution in Russia.

The official reason to revoke the permission for theatrical distribution is “discovering of materials, forbidden by the law, at the public demonstration of the film”. The permission has been revoked two days before the movie release. All courts refused to consider the claim challenging the rationale of repeal. This refusal, according to claimant, also has violated his rights to judicial protection. The claimant has shown the film without permission three times and has been fined. The general prosecutor’s office did not find any extremism in the movie.

Certainly the claimant does not want to lose its money and bear damages. Currently the Russian constitutional court considers the complaint. The claimant contends the current movie distribution rules, governing the issue and repeal of permission for theatrical distribution. According to complaint these rules establish “system of preliminary censorship”, what is forbidden by Russian constitution and violate the claimant’s rights on dissemination of information.

The stakeholders are pessimistic on outlook to succeed. The court could say the rules are not of censorship nature, but the MinCult’s deeds (the actions of state authorities) de facto represent the act of censorship and are not admissible.

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