Monday, May 03, 2010

Closing In On a Foreign Levies Settlement

This A.M. I attended a court hearing where Judge Carl West listened to arguments about a proposed lawsuit settlement over the distribution of foreign levies money by the WGAw. It went on for a couple of hours, and I added to my sum of knowledge about the case (which wasn't wide and deep to begin with, but that's another blog post) ...

Over the last few weeks and months, I've talked to a number of lawyers and litigants in the case (TAG is a late-comer), and read a portion of the filings. Amazingly enough, there seem to be writers who are hot under the collar. Among the issues presented at the hearing:

* The Australian Writers Guild objects to Australian writers being "swept into" the settlement, and worries that foreign writers might be foreclosed from separate claims against the WGAw in the future. (There is also the conundrum of foreign writers on foreign productions getting 100 cents of each foreign levy dollar, while U.S. scribes get 50 cents.)

* That "undeliverable funds" (foreign levy money for which a recipient can't be found) will stay with the WGAw in perpetuity.

* That a settlement might block future litigation that wasn't part of the original lawsuit.

Judge West said, after hearing the objections, that he was leaning toward approval of a settlement. His words, slightly paraphrased:

"I'm not inclined to throw a settlement out because there is a real benefit coming to writers covered in the class."

The judge said the scope of the settlement and release from claims should be consistent with the pleadings in the case, and that the settlement should go to the issues regarding collected funds, not funds that the Writers Guild didn't collect. And he had critical words regarding a letter that went out mischaracterizing what he'd ruled on in the case. (Attorneys to whom I talked afterward said Judge West was criticizing a letter sent out by David Young, the executive director of the WGA west.)

It looks as though a court-approved settlement for this long-bubbling lawsuit could be close at hand (the judge set up a conference between the parties for later in the month, so he seems to want this horse to keep galloping along.) The writers in the courtroom, all participants in the suit, seemed pleased with the direction the settlement is going, and if they're happy, we're happy.

(Go here for more on foreign levies ...)


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