The Writers Guild and the group representing the four big talent agencies have been in a feud that slowly simmered for a long time, but now it’s hitting full boil. The WGA, which represents screenwriters, announced Wednesday that they’ve filed a lawsuit in an attempt to declare talent agency “packaging fees” illegal, and to get repaid for those alleged illegal profits.
These “packaging fees” have been controversial for years since it allows talent agencies to bring in far more than their traditional 10 percent commission.
Meredith Stiehm, who created CBS’s Cold Case said that she didn’t learn that her show was packaged by her agency, Creative Artists Agency (CAA), until six years after the deal was made.
“It turned out that on the show I created, and worked on exclusively for years, CAA ended up making 94 cents for every dollar that I earned,” Stiehm said in the statement. “That is indefensible. An agency should make 10% of what their client makes — not 20, not 50, not like in my case, 94%. 10% is enough.”
According to the Writers Guild, the big four agencies receive more than 80% of the packaging fees paid by Hollywood studies and networks.
The suit includes two claims. The first is that packaging fees violate California fiduciary duty law. They argue that talent agents are required by law to represent writers without conflicts of interest, and that packaging fees violate that.
The other claim is that packaging fees violate the state’s Unfair Competition Law. As part of that, they argue that packing fees violate part of the federal Labor-Management Relations Act, known as the “anti-kickback” provision — it prevents representatives of employees from receiving anything of value from that employee’s employer.
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