An old conundrum bubbles back to the surface:
Writers Guild's foreign levies pool is bigger, annual report shows
The guild's West Coast union as of March 31 had amassed about $30 million in funds that have yet to be paid to writers whose movies or TV shows were viewed overseas.
The guild's West Coast union had amassed about $30 million in funds that have yet to be paid to writers as of March 31, according to its recently released annual report. That's up from $20 million in 2007.
Most of the funds belong to hundreds of writers, or their estates, whose movies or TV shows were viewed in foreign countries that levy special taxes to compensate authors for the reuse and copying of their work.
The guild receives money, held in trust, from foreign collection societies and is responsible for disbursing the proceeds to writers ...
If you're thinking: "Heey. Is the WGA holding money that belongs to animation creators?" you're firing on all eight cylinders . The WGA does indeed hold money for animation writers ... and others ... that it doesn't represent.
Back when I was young and frisky, Brian Walton was the head of the WGAw, and the Writers Guild repped zero animation writers (even while collecting European levies for them), I took issue with this cozy little racket. My gripe was that the WGA not only held money for animation writers, but that it told the union that did rep them absolutely nothing about the amount of funds held.
At the time, I was informed by the WGA that I could shove it. Walton's response to my objections was: "We (the WGA) should get gratitude we're doing all this work, instead of these brickbats being thrown at us."
The WGA holds $30,000,000 that hasn't been distributed to the people who earned the thirty mill, and the problem, if the Writers Guild's report is accurate, is now worse rather than better. Year before last the amount was $20,000,000.
Think about those figures for a minute. Assuming interest is being earned on the dough, the Guild is picking up a nice chunk of change, on top of which, it's collecting almost $540,000 annually to administer the money (Does this include interest? Or is it an add on? Inquiring minds want to know.)
Either way, it sounds like lucrative work if you can get it. Especially when you're the Lucky Ducky sitting on the millions. (Maybe it's not a giant surprise that the WGA is being sued over the issue. And maybe I'm a little bit correct believing the set-up stinks.)
My issue is the same as it was in the 1990s. A labor organization that represents more animation writers and board artists than the Writers Guild of American (west) ever has, is shut out completely on administering foreign levies for animation writers. We are given no reports or updates, allowed no input. The only communication that flows between our two organizations is when the WGAw asks us for contact information for one of the people they don't represent but TAG does.
So they can, you know, mail out a check and have an address to send it to. Neato jet.
No doubt by next year, the WGA will be sitting on $40,000,000 that doesn't belong to it, and earning $700,000 for the privilege.