The screenerfloodgates were flung wide open on Friday (Dec 5) as distributors reacted to aNew York district judge's decision overturning the MPAA screener ban.

Judge MichaelMukasey issued a preliminary injunction against the MPAA after he sided withargument by the plaintiffs that the ban constituted a clear restraint of tradeand was anti-competitive.

MPAA presidentand chief executive officer Jack Valenti immediately issued a statement sayingthere would be an appeal, expected within the next two weeks.

Plaintiffs ledby the self-styled Independent Coalition of film-makers had argued that the banthreatened their livelihood by limiting their chances to win awards, which depressedticket sales and jeopardised future funding.

Mukasey said the plaintiffs had sufficiently demonstratedthat they would be damaged by the ban, which had already prevented them fromsending screeners to voters in two awards competitions.

The judge citedpassages from a passionate deposition by Miramax co-chairman Harvey Weinsteinthat is believed to have played a persuasive role in the ruling.

Similarly, oraltestimony by American Splendor producer Ted Hope and Thirteen producer Jeffrey Levy-Hinte were seen asmajor factors.

A statement bythe plaintiffs read: "The future of our culture is dependent upon allindividuals and companies having the opportunity to not only express theirviews and ideas where, when and how they want, but also to be able to promotethat vision through any means they see fit in order to provide audiences withthe broadest possible array of choices."

The coalitioncomprises a number of independent film-makers including Antidote InternationalFilms, GreeneStreet Films, Independent Digital Entertainment, Killer Films,Paradigm Consulting, Salty Features, This is that Corporation, IFP/Los Angelesand IFP/New York.

"It's a win forthe independents, but also a win for the whole industry and really for thefilm-going public because it assures a diversity of films can get out in themarketplace," IFP Los Angeles executive director Dawn Hudson toldreporters after the ruling.

Upon hearing ofthe court ruling on the MPAA Screener ban, SAG president Melissa Gilbert and national executive director Bob Pisanoissued a joint statement saying: "Although we have not yet seen the court'sopinion, we are pleased at reports that screeners will now be available. Thismeans that the SAG Awards nominating committee will have the broadest possibleopportunity to view and judge the work of our members."

Meanwhile JackValenti was contemplating defeat - for the moment. "From Day One, the screenerpolicy has been about one thing: preserving the future of our industry forfilm-makers of all sizes by curtailing piracy," he said.

"We know, without dispute,that in the past screeners have been sources for pirated goods bothdomestically and overseas. We will appeal because the impact and growing threatof piracy is real and must be addressed wherever it happens."