N.Y. adopts kid actor law

SAG prexy Gilbert praises legal move

New York Gov. George Pataki has signed legislation to protect child actors, mirroring provisions of the Coogan Law in California.

The move came three months after the New York state legislature approved the Child Performer Education & Trust Act of 2003, which requires that 15% of all child performer earnings be set aside until the thesp turns 18. The bill, which had been pushed by Actors’ Equity, AFTRA and SAG, also authorizes the state’s Dept. of Labor to enforce education requirements for child performers.

Gilbert hails law

“This is a great day for young performers in New York,” said SAG prexy Melissa Gilbert, best known for her work on “Little House on the Prairie.” “As a former child actor myself, this has been a goal since the day I was elected.”

California enacted the Coogan Law in 1938; it’s named after Jackie Coogan, who made $4 million as a child only to discover later that his mother and stepfather had spent his money. That legislation allowed a court, in approving a child performer’s contract, to order up to half of the minor’s net earnings set aside in a trust.

California revamped the Coogan Law in 1999 with the 15% provision.

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