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CAA becomes third agency to take Writers Guild to court

LOS ANGELES CA. JUNE11, 2013: The CAA company is located in this building in Los Angeles. The Westfi
CAA headquarters in Century City.
(Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times)

CAA has filed an antitrust lawsuit against the Writers Guild of America, becoming the third Hollywood talent agency to take the union to court over the bitter dispute that has pitted TV and movie writers against their agents since April.

In the suit filed Monday in a federal court in California, Creative Artists Agency alleges that the guild has violated antitrust laws by organizing a group boycott in which the guild has pressured its members to fire their agents.

More than 7,000 WGA members have sent termination notices to their agents after the two sides broke off talks in April. The unprecedented action has thrown the TV industry into a state of uncertainty, since agents play a crucial role in staffing writers’ rooms.

CAA claims that the guild’s boycott is intended to prevent agencies from engaging in certain business practices — namely, packaging fees and production activity, both of which are at the heart of the dispute.

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“The WGA is seeking to restrain competition in a significant portion of the entertainment industry, far beyond lawful union interests,” CAA said in its complaint.

The WGA didn’t respond to a request for comment on Monday. The guild is facing similar suits from WME and UTA, both of which filed antitrust complaints last week.

In response, the WGA sent a cease-and-desist letter to the Assn. of Talent Agents on Friday, accusing agencies of collusion and anti-competitive behavior that has depressed writer compensation.

The WGA has already sued four of Hollywood’s biggest agencies over packaging fees — the decades-old practice in which agencies receive fees through the life of a TV show for lining up the talent on the project.

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The heated rhetoric from both sides comes after the latest round of negotiations broke down last month without an agreement. The guild rejected the latest offer from agencies to increase profit-sharing for junior TV writers.

CAA said in its complaint on Monday that it is seeking an injunction against the union as well as unspecified damages.

david.ng@latimes.com

@DavidNgLAT


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