A group of independent film-makers including Robert Altman, Christine Vachon, John Sloss, Ted Hope and John Penotti has teamed up with IFP/Los Angeles and IFP/New York to file a lawsuit against the MPAA in an effort to have the screener ban lifted immediately.

The move comes as the dust was starting to settle on the ban which was imposed by the MPAA on every awards organisation except for members of the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences (AMPAS).The suit, filed in the US District Court for the southern district of New York, aims to force the MPAA to allow individual distributors to determine when and in what manner they distribute screeners.

The coalition is also seeking an order requiring the MPAA to develop a forum in which all constituencies of the industry have a voice in the development of anti-piracy policies.

A statement was released with the lawsuit saying: "We have written letters, placed ads, held meetings, and tried in every way to get the MPAA to reverse its decision of Sept 30. Unlike the major studios - who can buy public awareness through expensive promotional campaigns - independent film-makers rely on recognition through awards to attract talent, financing and box office revenues. As a last resort, to protect the interests of independent film-makers and the film-going public, we have taken the step of seeking court-ordered relief of the ban."

The suit claims that the MPAA ban is "anticompetitive, unjustified and unecessarily restrictive" and that it constitutes an unlawful restraint of trade under the US anti-trust law. It claims that the MPAA has conspired to eliminate competitive rivalry among the studios, conspired to use that control to erect barriers against fair competition from small, independent producers and conspired with AMPAS to unlawfully disadvantage other competing critics' evaluation and awards events.

The suit claims that unless the ban is lifted immediately - in time for this year's season - independent producers' films will suffer and the climate for financing independent films will suffer.

Plaintiffs in the suit are (in alphabetical order) Antidote Films (Jeff Levy-Hinte cited), Elemental Films (Ross Katz), Forensic Films (Scott Macauley), GreeneStreet Films (John Penotti), HeadQuarters (Susan A Stover), IFP/Los Angeles (Dawn Hudson), IFP/New York (Michelle Byrd), InDiGent (John Sloss & Gary Winick), Independent Entertainment (Scott Rosenfelt), Killer Films (Christine Vachon), Open City Films (Joana Vicente), Paradigm Consulting (Peter Broderick), Salty Features (Eva Kolodner & Yael Melamede), Sandcastle 5 Productions (Robert Altman & Josh Astrachan), Sanford/Pillsbury Productions (Sarah Pillsbury & Midge Sanford), Talking Wall Pictures (John Coles) and This Is That Corp (Anthony Bregman, Anne Carey & Ted Hope).