Friday, October 01, 2010

Finally, some progress on foreign levies

This is our seventh blog-post in the last thirteen months (see the bottom of this post) about foreign levies monies for animation writers, a matter of some ongoing friction between TAG and the Writers Guild of America west, as well as subject of a long-standing lawsuit brought by non-WGAw writers, Richert v. WGAW, that was settled earlier this year.

The Guild has written several letters to the WGAw since the settlement of the lawsuit, asking for documentation of which TAG members were still owed money by the WGAw for fees collected under taxes on blank videocassettes and DVDs that are paid to creative authors of films distributed in nineteen foreign countries (see below) -- the so-called "foreign levies monies".

To date, the WGAw has not responded to any of our letters. However, recently one of our members -- among the small number of animation writers who have reported to us that they've actually gotten a foreign levies check -- sent us a copy of a letter he received from the WGAw with his most recent payout:

September, 2010

Dear Foreign Levies Recipient:

The Guild is pleased to send you the enclosed check, which represents your share of foreign levies collected in one or more of the 19 countries in Europe, Asia and Latin America in which our program now operates. Foreign levies are royalties collected under foreign law to compensate "authors" -- both WGA members and non-members — for the private copying, rental and cable retransmission of U.S. copyrighted works.


As you may already know, the Guild has launched its new Foreign Levies website. The redesigned website, which is accessible to the public at large, contains a number of new features:

  • A title look-up, allowing users to search the list of projects (most of them non-WGA) for which the Guild is holding foreign levies but has not identified the writer or lawful heir.
  • A writer look-up, allowing users to search the list of writers (most of them non-members; many of them deceased) for whom we are holding foreign levies but lack current contact information.
  • A registration page, allowing writers or their heirs to register non-WGA titles which they believe may in the future earn foreign levies.
  • Comprehensive information about the history and operation of the program, including the recent court settlement.
  • Links and other contact information for the Foreign Levies Department.

You may access the Foreign Levies website at or by clicking the Foreign Levies Program in the Quicklinks section of the main page. If you have further questions, please contact the WGAW Foreign Levies Department at or call (323) 782-4672.


Foreign Levies Department

My first reaction, based on a preliminary view of the new webpage and database, is that this is a giant step in the right direction towards the goal of getting this money into the hands of the people who have earned it. The people at WGAw responsible for this hard work deserve our thanks and support.

At TAG, we are going to be working hard to check the information on this database against our records, and notifying members who appear to have uncollected monies. Unfortunately, since the WGAw continues to stonewall us on sharing information, this will be a long, slow process.

Here’s where you can help -- yourself and us:

  • If you have ever written any animated show (union or non-union) that was distributred in any of the countries listed at the bottom of this post, and for which you have not received foreign levies monies, check the website immediately.

  • It's unclear whether or to what extent story artists are included -- most likely their inclusion depends on whether they got a screen credit that said they were involved in "story work" (e.g. a credit for "Story By" as opposed to "Storyboard By".) Nevertheless story artists should check this list as well.
  • Bear in mind that the information in this database is based on information supplied by authorities in the EU and the other countries that collect these levies. The data is riddled with misspellings and other errors, and TAG will continue to make efforts to supply WGAw with corrections as we find them. Also, bear in mind that this information is based upon screen credits; if you worked on a show for which you did not receive screen credit, you will probably not be linked to that show in this database, and TAG and WGAw will probably be limited to the extent we can collect that money for you.

  • Data can be most easily found in the two online databases, or there are PDF files with the following lists:

  • Names

  • Titles A-D

  • Titles E-K

  • Titles L-P

  • Titles Q-S

  • Titles T-Z

  • You may need to do a little detective work on the website to find your listings. Start your search by entering your name in the Search By Name database. If the database comes up with any projects to which your name is linked, check them and fill out the information to file a claim.

  • If your name does not come up in a name search, or if there are no projects linked to your name, look for the projects you worked on under Search by Title. (Note that there are PDF versions of these lists available on the site). If you find titles you have worked on, click them and start the claim process.

  • If you cannot find a listing for a show that you worked on, use the Register Your Work page to notify WGAw that you received screen credit on that show. When WGAw receives any levies monies for that show they will notify you.

  • Last but certainly not least, a significant portion of the people on these lists are deceased. If you know of the next-of-kin of anyone on the database, please inform them and encourage them to make a claim.

Again, if you have questions, contact or call (323) 782-4672. And let us know if you have any problems collecting this money. It’s yours – and it’s long since time you got it.

Countries collecting foreign levies: Argentina, Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

Past TAG Blog-posts about the foreign levies issue:


Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, since the WGAw continues to stonewall us on sharing information, this will be a long, slow process.

Heaven forbid the WGA cooperate with any other union, unless they're about to go on strike, then they can't talk enough about 'the brotherhood of labor' and the need to stick together.

Jeff, thank you and the TAG staff for putting so much time and energy into this issue. This post is a huge help.

Anonymous said...

I'm in both guilds and have received two foreign levies checks covering multiple territories in the past few months, so I can confirm (at least in this case) that the WGA is beginning to pay out the collected funds.

As for why your communications go ignored, I have no idea. There's certainly no excuse, and their motives may indeed be nefarious -- but speaking from my own experiences with mundane stuff at the WGA, I wouldn't underestimate the effect of bureaucratic incompetence.

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