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Hollywood Writers Sue Their Agents Over Pay and Competition Issues

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  • The Writer’s Guild of America is suing four major talent agencies alleging unfair competition practices and pay issues.
  • The WGA claims that the packaging fees that agents take as part of representing writers are illegal under California and federal law.
  • In some cases, the WGA says agents take 80 percent of packaging fees that are paid by the studios, rather than the standard 10 percent of a writers’ income.
  • The lawsuit was dropped after the agencies refused to sign the WGA’s code of conduct, which banned packaging fees.

Lawsuit Filed

The Writers Guild of America filed a lawsuit on Wednesday against four major talent agencies in a fight over writers’ wages and unfair competition practices.

The Guild and eight other writers, including The Wire creator David Simon, filed the complaint in a California superior court against William Morris Endeavor, Creative Artists Agency, United Talent Agency, and ICM Partners.

The main issue at hand focuses on “packing fees.” These are deals that allow agents to be paid directly by studios for bringing clients together on a project, instead of having agents receive a standard 10 percent of a writers’ income.

According to the WGA, the Big Four agencies currently receive about 80 percent of the packaging fees that are paid by studios.

One plaintiff, Meredith Stiehm, who created the CBS police drama Cold Case, said that after about six years with CAA, she learned that the agency made 94 cents for each dollar she made from the show.

That is indefensible,” she during a press conference. “An agency should make 10% of what their client makes—not 20, not 50, not like in my case, 94%. 10% is enough.”

The Claims

Along with issues about pay, the writers are also concerned about other ways the industry operates. For instance, they take issue with the trend of agents becoming producers themselves, which creates conflicts of interests.

In the lawsuit, WGA makes two legal claims: that packaging fees violate state fiduciary duty laws, and that those fees violate federal unfair competition laws.

First, under California state law, talent agents are considered fiduciaries. This means they are bound to represent writers, without conflicts of interest. Second, the Guild says that packaging fees constitute illegal “kickbacks” to agents, which would be a violation of both state and federal law.

The lawsuit cites the Taft-Hartley Act, a federal law passed in 1947. The anti-kickback section of the act prohibits “any employer or association of employers to pay, lend, or deliver, or agree to pay, lend, or deliver, any money or other thing of value … to any representative of any of his employees who are employed in an industry affecting commerce.”

Lawyers for the WGA argue that agency packaging fees fall under this ban.

“The plaintiffs will seek a judicial declaration that packaging fees are unlawful and an injunction prohibiting talent agencies from entering into future packaging deals,” Tony Segall, general counsel for the Writers Guild of America West, said in a statement announcing the lawsuit.

“The suit will also seek damages and repayment of illegal profits on behalf of writers who have been harmed by these unlawful practices in the past,” he added.

How We Got Here

The WGA has been trying to address this issue in recent days. The writers and agents have been without an agreement to govern their relationship with each other since one expired last weekend.

In fact, the WGA had even drafted a code of conduct for agencies that calls for the banning of packaging fees. Around 95 percent of the Guild’s members voted in favor of implementing it and the Guild then asked agencies to sign it. The Big Four agencies refused.

At one point during negotiations, Talent Agencies offered writers a 1 percent cut of their production fee money, but the Guild says that proposal was unacceptable.

On Saturday, the WGA told writers to fire agents who refuse to sign the union’s code of conduct. Some writers complied and have posted images of the letters they had sent to their agents. The letters say that under union rules, they can’t be represented by the agency until a negotiation is reached.

WGA West President David Goodman said the lawsuit shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. “We always had this as part of our strategy,” he said.

“The lawsuit is really at attempt to try and address the situation and make agencies realize this has to be fixed. It wasn’t a matter of the negotiations falling apart and then there was a lawsuit. It’s all part of the same thing.”

Defense

The Association of Talent Agents stands by the packaging fees. In its FAQ sections, the ATA writes, “Packaging agencies help assemble a show’s creative elements before the show is pitched to potential buyers and continue to service the show during its lifecycle.”

If packaging fees were to be eliminated, the ATA says “those packaging fees likely would not be redistributed in any way to talent.

The ATA also noted that United Talent Agency’s analysis found that its writers earn more money on shows that the agency packed and less on shows that it didn’t.

They issued a response to the lawsuit late Wednesday saying, “This development is ironic given that the guild itself has agreed to the legitimacy of packaging for more than 43 years. Even more ironic is the fact that the statute the WGA is suing under prevents abuses of power and authority by labor union leaders, even as the guild has intimidated its own members and repeatedly misled them about their lack of good faith in the negotiating room.”

What now?

Neither side appears to be willing to budge on the issue. The WGA says negotiations can continue as the lawsuit moves forward, with Goodman saying the WGA is waiting for the ATA to make contact with his team.

Without a deal soon, Hollywood productions could be stuck in limbo, leaving thousands of writers without work and hundreds of studio projects on hold.

“The agencies are the ones who’ve made it clear that they’re not taking it seriously. If they’re ready to do that, we’re here,” Goodman said.

The WGA has released a list of agencies that have agreed to their code of conduct and can represent its members. However, the Big Four agencies dominate much of the industry.

The tension unfolding between both parties is unprecedented and a meaningful agreement could change the industry practices for years to come.

See what others are saying: (Deadline) (The Hollywood Reporter) (The Washington Post)

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Durte Dom Returns To TikTok Following Sexual Assault Accusation Levied Against Him

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  • YouTuber Dom Zeglaitis, a former member of David Dobrik’s Vlog Squad known online as Durte Dom, returned to the Internet less than one month after he was accused of sexually assaulting a woman in 2018 who was too drunk to consent.
  • Zeglaitis has not issued a response to the allegation, but in the past three days, he has posted a dozen TikToks that mostly consist of short sketches and jokes he filmed with friends. 
  • One post shows Zeglaitis participating in the “Bulletproof” challenge, with text in the clip reading, “You think you can hurt my feelings?!? I got kicked out of the Vlog Squad for…”
  • Several people, including major creators like Tana Mongeau and Ethan Klein, are now calling him out for seeming to make light out of a serious situation.

Durte Dom Returns To Internet

Former Vlog Squad member Dom Zeglaitis, also known as “Durte Dom,” has resumed posting on social media after nearly a month of silence since he was accused of sexual assault. 

A woman told Insider in March that Zeglaitis raped her while she was too drunk to consent to sexual activity in 2018. She said that she and her friends were hanging out with YouTuber David Dobrik’s Vlog Squad at the time. The accuser, who was under 21 the night of the alleged assault, claimed the group supplied her and her friends with alcohol. 

The fallout of this allegation has been significant. While Zeglaitis has yet to respond to it, Dobrik has issued multiple apologies and faced most of the financial repercussions as frontman of the group. Both Zeglaitis and Dobrik were later demonetized by YouTube. Dobrik also lost multiple sponsorship deals and bowed out of Dispo, a photo-sharing app he co-founded. He is now taking a break from YouTube and social media. 

Though Zeglaitis has returned to the Internet, he is still largely ignoring the sexual assault accusation levied against him. He specifically began posting on TikTok over the weekend, and since then has posted roughly a dozen videos on the platform. 

Durte Dom Jokes About The Vlog Squad on TikTok

Most of the videos are short sketches or comedy bits with his friends. In one, he and a friend are going through Omegle while Zeglaitis is off-screen. The friend asks the people on the other end of the chat “What are your thoughts on Durte Dom?” before Zeglaitis enters the shot.

Several of the videos continue to reference Zeglaitis’ sleazy, womanizing, reputation. One shows him claiming to have “smashed” adult film star Riley Reid. In another, he is sitting on a lounge chair throwing money at girls dancing next to him. 

The video generating the most attention, however, is his take on the viral “Bulletproof” challenge. That TikTok features him standing below a text block that reads “You think you can hurt my feelings?!? I got kicked out of the Vlog Squad for…” while the song “Bulletproof” plays in the background.

@dominykas

bruh why they kick me out?!? 😐😵 @daviddobrik #vlogsquad #foryou #tiktok

♬ original sound – DurteDom

In the caption of that video, he tagged Dobrik and asked “bruh why they kick me out?!?”

Creators Call Out Zeglaitis for Ignoring Allegation

This specific TikTok caught the attention of major creators, including Tana Mongeau and Ethan Klein, who dueted that video to call Zeglaitis out. 

“Someone please make this make sense to me,” Mongeau wrote.

“This mf serious?” Klein said.

They are not the only ones frustrated with Zeglaitis. Many responded to the video in the comment section shocked he was posting at all, bringing up the sexual assault allegation, and urging him to not treat it as a joke. 

The comment sections on the rest of his videos are similarly flooded with people who are outraged that he is posting regular content as though nothing had happened.

See what others are saying: (Insider)

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TikToker Neumane Called Out for Copying Content From Smaller Creators

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  • Kane Trujillo, a comedy TikToker known as @neumane, is facing backlash after fellow TikToker Joey Bailey posted a video noting that Trujillo has risen to popularity off content copied from several, often smaller, creators.
  • Bailey also shared an alleged audio message he received from Trujillo where he threatened Bailey to take his call-out video down before sending a second message promising to pursue legal action.
  • In a clip from a TikTok live stream, Trujillo addressed the controversy by saying that “nothing’s original” and seemingly admitting to copying.
  • “It’s not who made it first, it’s who does it better,” he said in the clip. “Who gives a f*ck about some little copied content? … I’m an actor. I’m not a writer, I’m not a f*cking storyteller…You give me a script, I will f*cking nail that sh*t. And I’m not gonna think of it, no, but I’m gonna make yours better.”

Stealing Accusations

Popular comedy TikToker Kane Trujillo, who has over 2.7 million followers and is known on the platform as @neumane, has been called out by fellow creators for a pattern of stealing content.

The latest creator sounding the alarm is Joey Bailey (@joey.bailey), who posted a video to the app on March 15 that showed Trujillo’s posts next to the original versions he appears to have replicated, often word for word and with nearly identical expressions.

Similar allegations regarding Trujillo were made on March 13 in a YouTube video from thatsjustchris.

@joey.bailey

they took this down so this is the last time I repost it

♬ original sound – Joey

In a follow-up TikTok and a longer YouTube video, Bailey went on to explain that he received an audio message from Trujillo through Instagram trying to get Bailey to take the call-out video down.

@joey.bailey

I got a lot of questions about the messages in the last post so heres the final update and that’s it

♬ original sound – Joey

“You can kindly take it down and we can just, you know, be cool and move on from all this sh*t, or you could just leave it up and have a lot of enemies from here on out,” the voice that allegedly belongs to Trujillo can be heard saying in the audio.

Bailey said he privated the video after that because he “didn’t want to become the drama TikToker,” but he eventually changed his mind, arguing that he wasn’t starting drama, he was just standing up for himself.

After he unprivated the video, he said Trujillo sent him another message promising to pursue legal action.

“As of today me & my management team will be proceeding with a False Accusation lawsuit against you. I wish we didn’t have to go this far but you leave me no choice,” that message read.

Copied Creators Express Mixed Feelings

In total, at least several creators appear to have had content copied by Trujillo: @nuhchez, @ty_t.v, @brodiefalgoust, @dawson.taylor1, @licout, @lemmuelmamotsau, and @joey.bailey.

In statements to The Daily Dot, some of those creators essentially said they’ve accepted that this is something that happens on TikTok.

“This is something I’ve come to accept because sadly TikTok is an app that will push stolen content and Suppress originality!” Natchez Ballinger (@nuhchez) told the outlet in an email. “Creators have stolen from me since I’ve joined the app, I take it as flattery in a way.”

“I mean yeah he did steal my video and it became more popular but it’s TikTok,” Dawson Anderson (@dawson.taylor1) told the outlet via Instagram. “I don’t really care all that much it’s a video trend not worth crying over.”

Still, others were much more frustrated.

“The thing with him is that he doesn’t steal ideas, he steals the video word for word, uses the same sound, the same gestures, and even the same wording without giving any credit to the creator whatsoever,” Brodie Falgoust (@brodiefalgoust) told The Daily Dot via Instagram. “That is how he gained all of his following, and continues to do it still (even after being called out). I get ripped off all the time but It’s frustrating as a smaller creator who is constantly coming out with original content when a person with a big following comes and takes credit for your originality.”

“People take my ideas but any creator that has been bigger than me has given me credit!” Falgoust continued.

“There is [a] large difference between following a trend and ripping off someone’s work shot for shot and word for word,” said another creator who spoke to the outlet anonymously out of feat of legal retaliation.

“A lot of users do not understand how much work some of these creators are putting into original content. And for Neumane to hunt down those smaller creators and reproduce their successful content as his own without acknowledging credit is exasperating. The real issue becomes the money and opportunity he is being given by eating off of the backs of others.”

Neumane’s Response

In a clip of a TikTok live stream reviewed by The Daily Dot, Neumane addressed the controversy by saying, “nothing’s original.” He also seemed to admit to copying.

“Imagine showing hate to somebody on the internet,” Trujillo reportedly said during the live stream. “Like bro, just show love. Who gives a f*ck about some little copied content? Like, just make it good, and yours will get a lot of views. Do good expression, act well. I’m an actor. I’m not a writer, I’m not a f*cking storyteller. I’m an actor. You give me a script, I will f*cking nail that sh*t. And I’m not gonna think of it, no, but I’m gonna make yours better.”

A viral TikTok by @ttdramanews covering the allegations against Trujillo shared portions of that clip, which also shows Trujillo saying, “It’s not who made it first, it’s who does it better.”

According to The Daily Dot, Trujillo talked about people needing to show love, though commenters quickly pointed out that he’s the one threatening others with legal action.

See what others are saying: (The Daily Dot) (Joey Bailey) (thatsjustchris)

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Netflix Strikes Deal for Rights To Sony Movies Following Theatrical Releases. Yes, That Includes Spider-Man.

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  • Netflix has secured the exclusive rights to stream Sony films following their theatrical releases, per a reported $1 billion deal between the streaming giant and movie studio. 
  • While the full details of the deal have not yet been officially published, it will begin with Sony’s 2022 slate of films and reportedly last for the following five years.
  • The agreement means Netflix will eventually be granted streaming rights to popular Marvel characters such as Morbius, as well as Venom and Spider-Man once future installments are released. 

Netflix Reach Massive Deal With Sony

Netflix has struck a multi-year licensing deal with Sony Pictures Entertainment that will grant it exclusive streaming rights to the studio’s theatrical titles.

The terms of the agreement have yet to be officially disclosed, but according to multiple media outlets, Netflix will pay Sony over $1 billion over the course of the next four years. The deal itself is set to begin with Sony’s 2022 slate and will reportedly last five years, with Netflix holding streaming rights to individual films for 18 months. 

Given the nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s unclear whether some films will continue to have their release dates pushed back. It’s also unclear how long their theatrical windows will last; however, once released, Netflix will acquire streaming rights to films such as “Uncharted,” “Where the Crawdads Sing,” and “Bullet Train.”

Netflix Will Have Marvel Movies Once More

The deal will also grant Netflix access to a number of Marvel characters still owned by Sony. That includes the film “Morbius,” which is currently set to be released in January of next year.

It will also include future installments of the “Venom” and “Spider-Man” franchises, the latter of which is notable as it’s part of the Dinsey-owned Marvel Cinematic Universe. Outside of 2008’s “The Incredible Hulk,” Tom Holland’s “Spider-Man” films are the only other films set in the MCU that are not on Disney+. 

Prior to Disney+’s launch, Netflix held streaming rights to several MCU films, including “Black Panther,” “Thor: Ragnarok,” and “Avengers: Infinity War.” The shift of those massive blockbusters to another platform was a striking loss for Netflix, and the streaming service is no doubt itching to once again beef up its selection of superhero content.

It’s unclear whether or not the Sony deal will immediately allow Netflix to stream the upcoming films “Spider-Man: No Way Home” and “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” once they leave theaters. That’s because both are currently expected to be released later this year. 

That said, if sequels for these films are announced and can be expected to find their way to Netflix, the streaming giant will be able to acquire the rights to the films’ full library of installments, according to Deadline. Such a deal also exists for Jumanji’s library of movies. 

Sony’s Direct-to-Streaming Titles

Netflix will retain first-look rights to any of Sony’s potential direct-to-streaming titles, though that doesn’t necessarily mean it will acquire those films. Under that part of the deal, Sony still has the right to sell to other streaming platforms. 

While Sony has said it’s considering “a number” of direct-to-streaming releases, as Deadline projected, “in reality [that’s] likely just a couple a year and a minority of the studio’s overall slate.”

According to the Wall Street Journal, however, “Netflix has committed to ordering an undisclosed number of those films.”

See what others are saying: (Deadline) (Wall Street Journal) (IGN)

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