SAG-AFTRA Seeks Senate Approval of Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances

SAG-AFTRA has backed President Barack Obama’s move to seek U.S. Senate ratification of the 4-year-old Beijing treaty protecting the intellectual property rights of audiovisual performers.

SAG-AFTRA’s elected leadership and staff, as well as representatives from our industry partners and delegates from around the world, have worked tirelessly for more than a decade to reach this point,” said SAG-AFTRA national executive director David White. “The Senate should move quickly to ratify this treaty, bringing us closer to equal rights for performers regardless of media and across national boundaries.”

The performers union gave a strong endorsement in 2012 of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances. The accord is touted as extending rights to actors over the reuse of their work, images and likenesses outside the U.S., but has not yet taken effect because it has been ratified by only eight of the 30 countries needed.

“Audiovisual performers have been left out of any international protections for far too long, and it is time for the United States and other countries to join in protecting their rights, just as the rights of performers in sound recordings have been protected for many years,” SAG-AFTRA said.

The union has asserted that it began working in the late 1990s to obtain written agreements covering foreign use of actors’ work.

“This is an issue of fair treatment and basic protection for actors and performers at all levels in our industry, and SAG-AFTRA and our more than 160,000 members stand strong in supporting the prompt ratification of the Beijing Treaty,” said SAG-AFTRA COO and general counsel Duncan Crabtree-Ireland. “SAG-AFTRA hopes the Senate will take this opportunity to make a powerful statement in favor of creativity and fairness.”

The Screen Actors Guild, which merged with AFTRA in 2012, was sued in 2007 by Ken Osmond over the issue of how it disburses money derived from foreign tax revenues. It reached a settlement with Osmond that was approved in Los Angeles Superior Court in 2011.

SAG-AFTRA was sued in 2013 by 15 members, including former SAG president Ed Asner, alleging misconduct in its handling of foreign levies and residuals, and asserting that the union had stonewalled requests for information about $132 million held in trust by the union. A federal judge dismissed the suit in 2014 but said the plaintiffs could revisit the issue.

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