DGA, WGA Extend Foreign Levies Agreements with MPAA

The Directors Guild of America and the Writers Guild of America have each extended their Foreign Levies Agreements with the MPAA for three years.

The agreements have resulted in distribution of more than $310 million over the past two decades to directors and writers, according to the unions.

Kate Bedingfield, a spokeswoman for the MPAA, confirmed that the agreements have been extended until the end of 2017. The guilds had no immediate comment.

The agreements, which were set to expire on Dec. 31, cover funds collected outside the U.S. to compensate writers and directors. The DGA has paid out $160 million of those funds to to directors, according to its web site; the WGA West said in July in its annual report to members that it had paid out $151.7 million since 1993.

The foreign levies for U.S. creatives began to flow after the U.S. agreement in 1989 to terms of the Berne Convention, which establishes the right of authorship for individuals who create works of art. Copyright laws in European countries recognize directors and writers as “authors” of motion pictures; in the U.S., employees transfer the copyright to employers as part of employment agreements.

The MPAA agreements provide that the foreign funds, which are through obtained through various collecting societies, are distributed to the guilds and to the producers.

The DGA was sued in 2006 over alleged mishandling distribution of the foreign levies and reached a settlement in 2008.

The WGA was sued in 2005 by William Richert (“Winter Kills”), which alleged that the guild had not properly handled the foreign funds due scribes as compensation for reuse. A consent decree, signed in June 2010, included an agreement by the WGA to use its “best efforts” to pay all foreign funds within three years.

Bedingfield also said Monday that SAG-AFTRA’s foreign levies agreement also expires at the end of 2017. SAG and AFTRA merged in 2012 and the union signed a three-year foreign levies agreement in 2013, specifying that performers receive a 50% share.

SAG was sued over the foreign levies program in 2007 by “Leave It to Beaver” actor Ken Osmond. That suit was settled in 2011.

According to the SAG-AFTRA web site, the union has collected $27 million in foreign funds and distributed $16.7 million of those since 1997, as of April, 2013.

In May, 2013, SAG-AFTRA was sued by former SAG-AFTRA president Ed Asner and 15 other plaintiffs over alleged mishandling of $132 million in residuals and foreign royalties. A federal judge dismissed the suit in January, 2014, but  indicated that the plaintiffs might be able to re-visit the issue since the factual situation was still developing.

News of the extension of the DGA and WGA agreements was first reported by Deadline.com.

 

 

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