Jail, fines set for video pirates; Coogan Law revised

California Gov. Gray Davis is expected to sign legislation today to toughen penalties for video piracy and clear up provisions of the Coogan Law to help child actors keep their money.

The videotaping bill, authored by Sen. Kevin Murray (D-Los Angeles), specifies that videotaping in a movie theater without express written authority of the owner is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.

The revision of the Coogan Law is aimed at properly dispersing $1.2 million in wages earned by underage thesps over the past three years by establishing the Actors’ Fund of America as a “default trust repository” for 15% of child actors’ gross earnings.

The Legislature required in late 1999 that 15% of those wages be set aside in a trust, but significant numbers of parents have failed to establish the trusts, leading to the studios accumulating the unpaid wages.

The 1999 legislation made all the money earned by a child performer the property of the child, regardless of guardianship, and established fiduciary duties for parents or guardians managing the rest of the minor’s income.

The original Coogan law was named after Jackie Coogan, who made $4 million as a child only to discover later that his mother and stepfather had spent it. That legislation allowed a court to order that up to half of the minor’s net earnings be set aside in a trust.

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