Blog – Pay or Play

Authored by the attorneys in the firm’s Entertainment Department, this blog provides a legal perspective on the latest issues and trends affecting the entertainment industry, including digital content, multichannel networks, celebrity branding and artist and performer management as well as commentary on music law and media distribution law.

Recent Blog Posts

  • Progress in WGA-Agency Talks, but No Breakthrough Yet In April, 2019 the WGA directed its members to fire their agents unless the agents agreed to adhere to a Code of Conduct that would end the collection of package commissions and strictly limit their ownership stake in production entities. Buoyed by solidarity among its members, the union was successful in obtaining widespread agreement from the agencies, beginning with Verve in May 2019 to industry leaders UTA and ICM Partners over the summer. This leaves the two largest agencies, CAA... More
  • WGA Scores Points in Agency Litigation The battle between the Writers Guild of America and the major agencies has been waged on two fronts for over a year, with mixed results. Attention recently has focused primarily on the WGA’s pressure campaign to require agencies to sign a Code of Conduct renouncing package commissions and ownership of production companies as a condition of representing its members. This campaign has proved largely successful. Most of the boutique and mid-sized agencies and two of the big four, UTA and ICM... More
  • AMC Throws Hail Mary to Lure Audiences with 15 Cent Tickets In a bid to lure virus-wary audiences back into its theaters, AMC Theaters will be offering tickets priced at just 15 cents. The promotion will be available at 100 of the chain’s theaters for one day only on August 20. This is the official reopening date of AMC’s theaters after a five month shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The price point reflects the price of tickets when AMC opened its first theater in Kansas City 100 years ago in 1920.... More
  • Seventy Years Later, It’s Curtains for Paramount Decrees Many of us will remember 2020 as the year that the theatrical exhibition business irrevocably changed. Our last blog covered the landmark agreement between Universal Pictures and AMC, the world’s largest theater chain, to reduce the theatrical exhibition window from three months to just over three weeks. Now a New York federal judge has granted a motion by the Department of Justice to terminate the Paramount Consent Decrees—antitrust rules that have governed the relationship of studios and theater owners since... More
  • VOD Goes Viral: Universal and AMC Upend Theatrical Release Model These have been hard times for the movie theater business. Attendance peaked in 2002 at approximately 1.6 billion tickets sold. In 2019, that number had dropped by 25%, to around 1.2 billion. The proliferation of subscription streaming services is not the only force driving this trend, but it is certainly a substantial one. Against this challenging backdrop, the COVID pandemic has caused the studios to cut off theatrical release of new movies since March, so that theaters not affected by... More
  • UTA Ends WGA Packaging Dispute UTA has just announced that it reached agreement with the Writers Guild to sign a franchise agreement that will permit it to resume representation of writers. This will bring a partial end to a dispute that has lasted for over a year. The WGA had directed its members to fire their agents over their practice of receiving packaging fees directly from networks and studios, which the Guild regarded as a conflict of interest. The WGA also objected to the agencies’ moves... More
  • Peace in Our Time: WGA Reaches Deal on New Basic Agreement In a down to the wire bargaining session, the Writers Guild of America negotiating committee reached agreement with the studios on a new three-year deal. This was unanimously approved by the governing boards of the WGA West and East and will go to the membership for likely ratification later this month. The pact averts what was widely seen pre-COVID as the very real possibility of a writers strike. The terms track gains previously won by the Directors Guild and the Screen... More
  • Sherlock Holmes’s Sister Subject of Copyright Infringement Claim A planned Netflix movie about Sherlock Holmes’s sister is the target of a lawsuit from the estate of Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of the legendary detective. The estate has asserted both copyright and trademark claims. The estate will have to walk a narrow path to prevail on its copyright claims. All but the last ten Sherlock Holmes stories have fallen into the public domain.  A 2014 Federal Circuit Court decision ruled that the attributes of the character had done so... More
  • Performers Union Cuts Deal With Studios The performers union, SAG-AFTRA, has reached a deal with the studios for a new three-year contract covering theatrical, television and new media production. The proposal will still need to be approved by the national board and the membership before taking effect. The proposed contract is patterned on the agreement struck by the Directors Guild earlier this year. It includes wage increases and increased pension and health contributions. The most critical improvement, however, is improved residuals for high-budget streaming productions on services... More
  • Agencies Move to Dismiss WGA’s Remaining Claims Another blow was struck in the litigation between the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the top three talent agencies. In April, the agencies prevailed in their motion to dismiss eight of the nine claims asserted against them by the WGA in the pending US District Court case.  They have now moved to dismiss the remaining claim. The underlying issue in the case has been the WGA’s contention that the agencies’ practice of collecting packaging commissions is an illegal conflict of interest.... More