A federal judge on Tuesday denied a request by the Writers Guild of America to dismiss a lawsuit brought by three large talent agencies, clearing the way for a legal battle over long-standing agency practices that could last for years.
A trial could begin in March 2021. Large talent agencies Creative Artists Agency, United Talent Agency and William Morris Endeavor Entertainment last year sued the WGA after the union instructed its members to not work with agencies that do not follow the guild’s code of conduct, a move that the agencies believe violated antitrust laws.
“The actions of this Guild’s leadership have exposed its members to significant legal and financial exposure,” the agencies said in a statement. “We will continue to take all steps necessary to defend our respective businesses and will aggressively move forward to address the issues in this litigation.
The WGA said in a statement that it would continue to move forward with its case and that it is “confident that the evidence uncovered through discovery will prove the agencies’ conflicts of interest and breach of fiduciary duty that we have detailed in our complaint.”
The WGA and the Assn. of Talent Agents have been in a months-long dispute over a new code of conduct. The WGA West has negotiated with more than 80 talent agencies that have agreed to the union’s terms, including ending such industry practices as packaging, when agencies pull together talent for projects and collect a fee from studios. So far, five talent agencies that are members of the ATA have broken ranks and agreed to the WGA’s terms.
The agencies say that writers benefit from packaging because they don’t have to pay the typical 10% commission fee and that they can manage potential conflicts of interest. Some large agencies are continuing to package shows without writers and centering the projects on popular books, podcasts and foreign-language shows.
The WGA has also countersued the CAA, WME and UTA, alleging the agencies have violated antitrust laws through packaging fees.