AFM Accuses Movie Studios of Bilking Musicians on Reused Music

The American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada has accused the six major studios of reusing film soundtrack clips without compensating musicians — including music from “Beauty and the Beast” and “Titanic.”

AFM filed a lawsuit Tuesday in federal court in Los Angeles seeking a jury trial and damages for all losses, including prejudgment interest.

“Our agreements obligate the studios to make additional payments to musicians when soundtracks are reused, and AFM members are entitled to receive the benefit of that bargain,” said AFM International president Ray Hair. “Our efforts to resolve these contract violations and missing payments have been unproductive, so we are looking to the courts for relief.”

The union’s lawsuit specifically charges Columbia, Paramount, 20th Century Fox, Universal, Walt Disney and Warner Bros. with allegedly reusing previously recorded film soundtracks in violation of AFM’s collective bargaining agreement with the studios. A spokesman for The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which acts as the negotiating arm for the studios, said, We are not commenting on a pending legal matter.”

The lawsuit cited multiple examples of studios reusing film scores without paying musicians:

  • Columbia using music from “Karate Kid” in an episode of the TV series “Happy Endings”;
  • Disney using music from “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Muppet Movie” in the TV series “The Neighbors’;
  • Fox using music from “Titanic” in the film “This Means War”;
  • Paramount using music from “Up in the Air” in the film “Follow Me: The Yoni Netanyahu Story”;
  • Universal using music from “Bourne Identity” in the TV series “The Office”;
  • Warner Bros. using music from “Battle for the Planet of the Apes” in the film “Argo.”

AFM sued Warner Bros., MGM and Paramount last month for alleged violations of the union’s master contract for recording film scores outside the United States and Canada. The named “Interstellar,”  “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island,” “RoboCop” and “Carrie” as being in violation of the contract.

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