Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Writers Lawsuit Revived, Mark Teaches in Michigan

May 24, 2005

In this newsletter:


Four years after it was initially filed, a class-action age discrimination lawsuit filed by a group of WGA writers has been revived on appeal and sent back for trial.

In 2001, members of the Writers Guild went to Federal court to claim that they had been systematically discriminated against by television networks, production companies, and talent agencies because they were more than 40 years old. The original case had been dismissed for procedural reasons, without prejudice and with leave to amend.

The writers decided to abandon their Federal lawsuit and rewrite their script, bringing a new suit in the California state courts instead. They claimed that the television networks and production companies’ systematic discrimination against older writers violated the California Fair Employment and Housing Act.

Furthermore, the writers argued that talent agencies were “aiding and abetting” the discrimination by pre-screening writers and not referring older candidates for consideration on projects. The writers claimed that because talent agencies refused to provide services on a wide scale, the agencies violated the California Unruh Civil Rights Act, which protects against discrimination in providing services.

The state lawsuit was dismissed in trial court, however, the writers won a reversal of that decision on appeal.

Justice Paul Boland, writing for the Court of Appeal, wrote that the writers properly alleged “classwide claims” as well as a “pattern and practice” of discrimination against older writers among networks and production companies.

The writers also made proper allegations that talent agencies supposedly knew of the networks and production companies’ discrimination policy against older writers and gave “substantial assistance or encouragement” of the policy by only submitting names of younger writers to projects.

In addition, the writers adequately presented claims of unfair competition against the networks, production companies and talent agencies.

Alch v. Superior Court, 19 Cal.Rptr.3d 29, 2004 Cal.App.LEXIS 1531 (Cal.App. 2004), petition for hearing by the California Supreme Court denied (Dec. 22, 2004).


Filmmakers in Michigan wanting to understand film financing and distribution of indie films can now register for Mark’s Oct. 15 seminar at Wayne State University.

The one-day seminar will teach filmmakers how independent films are financed and distributed. Topics covered include forming a production company, raising financing via pre-sales, debt and limited partnerships, negotiating tactics, principal terms of the acquisition/distribution agreement, cross-collaterization and creative accounting.

The seminar is being offered through ArtServe Michigan in partnership with Wayne State University Law School Sports & Entertainment Law Society and the University of Detroit-Mercy Law School Arts, Entertainment & Sports Association.

For more information and to register, click here.


Mark Litwak & Associates grants newsletter recipients permission to copy and distribute this newsletter and distribute it free of charge, provided that copies are distributed for educational and non-profit use, no changes or revisions are made, all copies clearly attribute the article to its author and include its copyright notice.DISCLAIMER: While we are careful in preparing this newsletter, readers should consult with a lawyer before relying on any information. Case law and statutes are subject to change, and may not apply in all jurisdictions.Copyright 2005, Mark Litwak