Ken Osmond, who played Eddie Haskell on “Leave It to Beaver,” has sued the Screen Actors Guild over its collection of foreign tax revenues for its members.
Osmond filed the suit Tuesday in state court in Los Angeles, alleging SAG’s mishandled those funds and hasn’t informed members about those funds or paid them out. It also alleged the guild lacks the authority to handle those funds in the first place.
The complaint, which seeks class-action status, is similar to lawsuits that were filed against the WGA and the DGA in the past year and have subsequently consolidated. The suit said the class action could cover over 30,000 actors.
Osmond alleges that SAG hasn’t paid him any money from the overseas exploitation of “Leave It to Beaver” and hasn’t responded to his requests for information. “In the most simple of terms, SAG stonewalled Osmond’s efforts to seek information about SAG’s practices with respect to the collection and retention of foreign levies,” the action said.
SAG general counsel Duncan Crabtree-Ireland said in response, “We have not received a copy of the complaint and have no further comment.”
Generation of the foreign levies — collected from countries by such mechanisms as taxes on video sales and/or rentals to compensate copyright holders for reuse — started in the 1980s. SAG disclosed to members earlier this year that it had collected over $8 million of such monies but had distributed less than 3% of those funds (Daily Variety, July 9).
SAG noted at that point that copyright holders — studios and producers — originally received all of those funds but noted it was able to negotiate agreements with foreign collection societies for a portion of the funds designated for actors. SAG also warned its members against seeking the funds on their own, noting that they could find themselves subject to claims or lawsuits by producers who allege the payments belong to them under U.S. copyright law.
The consolidated WGA and DGA suits are awaiting a ruling in state court over the question of certification as a class-action suit.
A federal court judge wrote in April that the WGA and DGA had limited the rights of plaintiffs to receive their full share of the foreign levies. That finding was issued as part of granting a motion by the four plaintiffs — all non-members of the guilds — to move the case out of federal court and back to state court.