Residuals go online

Internet, new law help guilds police monies owed

Actors, directors and writers may be able to collect more of the residuals they are owed if a new enforcement program launched by the Directors Guild of America, the Screen Actors Guild and the Writers Guild of America is successful.

Under the new program, the guilds have established an online database that lists films and TV programs produced under the jurisdiction of SAG, DGA or WGA contracts. The effort follows passage in Congress last year of a law allowing pursuit of claims in federal court if a distributor knew or had reason to know that a film or program was subject to a guild’s collective bargaining agreement.

“The legislation required us to do this Internet posting, and it serves as notice so that distributors cannot say down the road, ‘We didn’t know,’ ” said Cheryl Rhoden, a spokeswoman for the WGA West.

“It’s one way of providing constructive notice to a potential distributor,” said Andy Levy, a spokesman for the DGA.

The info may be accessed free via each guild’s Web site — http://www.sag.org; http://www.dga.org; and http://www.wga.org. The DGA and SAG sites are operational; the WGA’s should be ready soon.

Seek and find

To protect their members, SAG, the DGA and the WGA require producers to obtain assumption agreements from distributors that bind the distributor to pay residuals. The transfer legislation gives the guilds an assurance that distributors are to fulfill this obligation.

Making the signatory information available through the Internet provides “constructive notice” of residual obligations. The guilds can then go to court to establish liability for distributors from whom a producer failed to obtain an assumption agreement.

“The residual transfer legislation will make it easier for the guilds to go after distributors who knew or should have known that they owed residuals,” DGA president Jack Shea said. “And the new online database will ensure that distributors around the world have every reason to know about the signatory status of the film or television program they’re distributing.”

Thanks to high tech

SAG president Richard Masur said the unique nature of the entertainment business has often made it difficult for performers, directors and writers to collect residuals.

“However, new technologies such as the World Wide Web are making it easier for us to put distributors on notice that they are distributing a picture or show in which guild performers appeared,” Masur said. “That will help the guilds to collect millions in unpaid residuals for their members.”

Daniel Petrie Jr., president of WGAW, said the evolution of the entertainment industry, with international co-productions and vertical integration of companies, “has required the guilds to initiate new, creative enforcement programs.”

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