The Writers Guild of America filed claims Monday, August 19, in federal court alleging the entertainment industry’s biggest talent agencies are violating antitrust and anti-racketeering laws, the latest move in a long and heated battle between those who write scripts and the agents who represent them.
The filings are a response to lawsuits filed by three agencies in recent months alleging the Writers Guild has itself violated antitrust law with organized actions in the dispute, including the mass firing of agents by thousands of writers in April.
At issue are so-called packaging fees, where talent agencies combine elements including writers, scripts, or actors—most often on television series—and sell them directly to studios as a unit.
Writers have long held that the practice, common for decades in Hollywood, takes money that should rightfully be theirs and puts it in agents’ pockets. They are now saying that it violates federal law, in part by agents taking money directly from studios before the writers see it.
“The way this should be working is there should be payment to the employees, and the employee pays commission to their representative,” Tony Segall, general counsel for the Writers Guild of America West, told The Associated Press on Monday. “That’s not the way it works, which we think is a big problem.”
The suit alleges the major agencies have conspired to fix the price of packaging fees, and have been strong-arming smaller agencies that seek to use different models.
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