Patricia Arquette's New Film Caught in Legal Fight Over Foreign Piracy (Exclusive)

It took 12 years for "Boyhood" to be filmed and released. The distribution of the Oscar-winning actress' newest film, "Electric Slide," has now set off a timely controversy.
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Patricia Arquette

Normally, a film distributor would be overjoyed to be releasing an actress' first film after she wins an Academy Award, but Osiris Entertainment is demanding a big discount on the amount it agreed to pay for the new Patricia Arquette film, Electric Slide, currently due out in U.S. theaters in April.

The Hollywood Reporter has learned that Osiris Entertainment has submitted a claim against Electric Slide producer Myriad Pictures at the arbitration unit of the Independent Film & Television Alliance. The nature of the dispute is a timely one — something that probably wouldn't have been fought over when Arquette began filming Boyhood, when bandwidth speeds were much slower and the film industry was only beginning to come to grips with digital piracy.

Osiris, which picked up the film about real-life "gentleman bank robber" Eddie Dodson after it played at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2014, is upset that the producer has allowed Electric Slide to be exploited in countries like South Africa and Thailand, which arbitration papers paint as "notorious for piracy." The foreign release of the picture before its debut in the States is alleged to have caused the film to be "pirated and leaked online."

Much like decisions on when best to release a film in different formats, the timing of geographical distribution is a delicate dance that's increasingly becoming important in an era of digital networks pushing the boundaries of globalized commerce. For independent cinema, which has traditionally been funded through the pre-selling of foreign rights, the issue threatens to become even more acute.

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At IFTA, Osiris is making the objection that when it entered into a deal with Myriad in September 2014 for Electric Slide, which also stars Jim Sturgess and Chloe Sevigny, Myriad already had deals in place for foreign distribution.

If Osiris had known about these agreements, that would have been one thing — allowing it to make a cost benefit analysis on the price it was willing to pay for a follow-up release in North America. But Osiris says in arbitration papers that the foreign agreements were made "covertly" and in "clear contravention" of its own heavily negotiated contract that precluded Myriad from allowing anyone the right to distribute the film outside of North America until after the film was released inside the U.S and Canada.

The Osiris-Myriad agreement is also said to contain a provision that permitted third-party foreign distribution "if — and only if — Myriad contemporaneously informed Osiris of its intent to do so, by attaching a 'Schedule,' " but Osiris says that didn't happen, so it was under the impression that there would be no early foreign release.

By December, though, Osiris says it learned that Myriad had entered into two dozen foreign deals for Electric Slide. According to the arbitration papers, Osiris then wrote a letter demanding that the producer take precautionary measures to guard against piracy risks and also ensure no further foreign releases.

"Myriad refused to cure the breach," states Osiris' arbitration claim. "Rather, by letter dated December 18, 2014, Myriad tried to justify its conduct by claiming 'mutual inadvertent error.' This vague and completely unjustifiable assertion does not justify or excuse Myriad's clear breach."

A rep for Myriad has yet to respond to a request for comment.

Osiris, being represented by Mathew Rosengart at Greenberg Traurig, alleges that the Internet leaks went "viral" in 2014. Now, the claimant says that Myriad is not entitled to further payments and should also pay further damages for alleged breach of contract and negligent misrepresentation. It appears as though Myriad has sent Osiris an invoice already for advance payments it expects, so any counterclaims and reactionary measures could put Electric Slide's forthcoming U.S. release at risk. For now, Osiris intends to go forward with putting the film in theaters in April.

It took 12 years for everyone to see Arquette's Oscar-winning star turn in Boyhood. Now, who gets to see her next film and who already jumped the line is under close legal inspection.

Twitter: @eriqgardner