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“It is time to stop the ageism that permeates Hollywood’s casting process,” wrote SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris.[1] On September 24, 2016, California Governor Jerry Brown took a controversial step toward achieving such a goal when he signed the Customer Records bill, AB-1687 (effective January 1, 2017), into law. This new state law requires that Internet Movie Database “IMDb” remove an actor’s listed age upon request by that actor.[2] IMDb is a well-known website in the entertainment industry that offers information about movies, television shows, and actors. Its subscription service, IMDbPro, allows actors to create their own profile page and access job listings posted by industry professionals. Industry professionals directly use the website for casting calls and auditions and have been known to frequently filter out potential actors though information posted on the website. Thus, the broader goal of this law is to alleviate age discrimination in an industry that has been alleged to phase out ageing actors in a discriminatory fashion.

After three extensions and close to two months of negotiations, SAG-AFTRA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (“AMPTP”), a trade association of Hollywood’s largest production companies, reached a tentative deal on a new three year master contract covering film and television on Friday, July 4, 2014.  The negotiations were led by Carol Lombardini for AMPTP and David White for SAG-AFTRA and resulted in a new 2014 Producers-SAG-AFTRA Codified Basic Agreement and an industry-wide 2014 SAG-AFTRA Television Agreement (together, the “Agreement”).

Case Background

In a case titled Garcia v. Google, Inc., 12-57302, the recent ruling of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals (which covers nine states, including California) suggests that an actor has a protectable copyright in the recording of his or her performance. In this case, Cindy Lee Garcia was hired and paid to act in a film entitled “Desert Warrior.” Ms. Garcia’s role was minimal. She was given only 4 pages of script and filmed for 3 ½ days. While “Desert Warrior” was never released, the film’s writer and producer dubbed over Ms. Garcia’s performance and included it in a different film called “Innocence of Muslims.” “Innocence of Muslims” was posted on YouTube. The context in which Ms. Garcia’s performance appeared in the film was interpreted as anti-Muslim by the Muslim community. Following the film’s release and posting on YouTube, Ms. Garcia received death threats. Despite Ms. Garcia’s numerous requests to Google that it remove “Innocence of Muslims” from YouTube, Google refused.

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The Sports, Arts and Entertainment Group at Garvey Schubert Barer provides full service legal representation on sports, entertainment and business matters, including handling transactions related to brand management, licensing, joint ventures, venture capital, private equity, technology, the Internet and new media.
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