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Suit slams DGA’s foreign take

Webb sues guild over non-member fees

William Webb has sued the Directors Guild of America over its practice of collecting foreign levies for helmers who aren’t DGA members.

Webb alleges in the action that the DGA began making foreign collections in 1991 on monies due to copyright holders, such as taxes on video rentals or purchases of blank videocassettes and DVDs.

The DGA said the suit was baseless and it would “vigorously” defend itself.

Suit, filed Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleges the DGA has no authority to collect the funds for non-members, hasn’t communicated that information to the affected directors and hasn’t paid them. Action seeks the monies collected, unspecified damages and interest.

“One would never know that the DGA is collecting these monies on behalf of non-members,” Webb alleges in the suit. “No public information is available regarding these monies and the procedures by which a non-member could collect these monies.”

Webb, who asserts he’s never been a DGA member, is seeking class-action status for the suit and asserting the allegations cover at least 1,000 directors. He alleged specifically that the DGA collected foreign levies due to him on “Delta Fever,” released domestically in 1987, and “The Hit List,” a TV pic that first aired in the U.S. in 1993, but has not paid him.

Suit also noted the guild takes an unspecified commission as a fee for collection and distribution of foreign levies.

In a statement issued Sunday, the DGA said, “Although the guild does not generally comment on pending litigation, the DGA has spent considerable time and effort to distribute tens of millions of dollars received from foreign collection societies to guild members and non-members alike. The guild considers the lawsuit completely baseless.”

Writer-director William Richert filed a similar suit last year against the Writers Guild of America, West, over its practice of collecting foreign levies for writers who aren’t WGA members.

Richert alleged in the action that the WGA began making foreign collections in 1991 on monies due to copyright holders.

The Richert suit, also filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, also alleged the WGA has no authority to collect the funds for non-members, hasn’t communicated that information to the affected writers and hasn’t paid them. Richert sought class-action status for the suit and asserted the allegations cover at least 1,000 writers.

WGA officials said at the time that the suit was without merit and that the guild’s authority to collect the funds for non-members stems from the initial agreements it struck in the late 1980s with the collection agencies.

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