Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Writers' Foreign Levies Settlement!

Over the last few years of the TAG Blog, I've dwelt occasionally on the subject of foreign levies, and the fact that the WGA and DGA distribute these European "royalties" (which are derived from taxes collected on behalf of writers and directors working in film and television) to scribes and directors in the U.S. of A.

Ever since the WGA and DGA started distributing these monies, the DGA has worked closely with us to identify and contact current and past animation directors about monies they might be owed. Meanwhile, some little while ago, disgruntled American screenwriters sued the WGA over the slowness of its royalty distributions.

But now, there is a settlement percolating out in Litigation Land, because a few days ago I received a "Notice of Proposed Settlement" in the mail and put two and two together. The notice starts like this:

"There is now pending in the Superior Court of the County of Los Angeles a class action lawsuit entitled Richert, et al. v. Writers Guild of America west, Inc. Case No BC339972 (the "Litigation"). This Notice explains the nature of the Litigation, general terms of a proposed settlement, and informs you of your legal rights and obligations ...

This settlement encompasses "All writers, including members of the WGAw and non-members of the WGAw, whose works, whether or not written under any WGAw collective bargaining agreement, earned Foreign Levy Funds that were paid to the WGAw by foreign collection societies ..."

If you're a current or past animation writer who falls under the description directly above and you have not received a Notice of Class Action and Proposed Settlement, read this link. If after reading it you need further details, you might want to get in touch with one of the plaintiff co-counsels on the case, Neville Johnson of Johnson & Johnson, or Paul Kiesel of Kiesel, Boucher and Larson, LLP. Here's is a webpage from the WGAw website on the subject.

I've certainly done my share of griping about how the WGA has handled distribution of levies, going all the way back to the reign of Brian Walton at the WGAw back in the 1990s. Happily, it now appears that my long nightmare is over, and I will once more be able to keep solid food down.


Anonymous said...

...just like the Maury's Wig guy from the film Goodfellas, pestering Jimmy about his share of the Latanza Heist... "I want my money, Jimmy! Gimme my money!"

Anonymous said...

...It's the "LUFTHANSA" heist.

Steve, Have you discussed the growing trend of "Outline Driven" shows? How do you classify Storyboard Artists who also write DIALOGUE (as well as visual gags,etc..) on the same show?

Anonymous said...

growing trend? it's the original and only trend. welcome to the real party.

Steve Hulett said...

They have to be paid at the correct rate.

One cute trick is synopses have morphed into scripts, or near-scripts. The name of the game is to hold down costs, so producers resort to new, made-up categories.

Feel free to report interesting permutations to me. I'm sure I haven't heard them all.

Anonymous said...

Are you being subtle because I got the notice a couple of weeks ago and we don’t get anything but a promise to pay us if they haven’t yet within in the next three years!

And the lawyers and the plaintiffs get paid from all the money the Writers Guild says
it can’t distribute.

The settlement says that the WGA and the DGA “entered into various agreements with various producers, production companies and distributors regarding the division between them of the Foreign Levy Funds.”

I called the guys you mentioned Kiesel and Johnson a week ago and was asked both places why I was calling and I said to get copies of those agreements but nobody has called me back.

I googled the people who sued on behalf of those similarly situated but can’t figure out which one writes animation.

I could only get writing credits on Richert. Googling Jamison got me nothing and googling Retchin I got a newsletter from Beth Hillel Temple which lists a contribution to the building fund in the memory of Pearl M. Retchin which led me to a VARIETY story in which the judge in this lawsuit “expressed displeasure that there's been no formal notice to the court that Pearl Retchin, one of the co-plaintiffs, passed away last year and that her daughter had replaced her as representative.”

"How could this have possibly gone forward?" West asked. "There's less transparency than might have been appropriate."

If you’re not being subtle then it’s my turn to not be able to keep solid food down.

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