Musicians File Lawsuit Against Movie Studios

June 8, 2015
By Marc Bussanich 

New York, NY—The American Federation of Musicians announced two weeks ago that it has filed a lawsuit against six movie studios because the musicians claim that the studios are violating long-standing collective bargaining agreements by reusing film soundtrack clips in other films and television programs without appropriately compensating musicians. 

In the accompanying video, we interviewed AFM’s president, Raymond Hair, about the lawsuit against the six biggest movie studios in the industry—Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc., Paramount Pictures Corporation, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Universal City Studios LLC, Walt Disney Pictures, Inc. and Warner Brothers Entertainment, Inc.

“The agreements we have with the major motion companies go back to the 1930s. The AFM was probably the first union to have an industry-wide agreement with any industry, and as part of that agreement we had use-restrictions on the soundtracks that were scored—music tracks that were created and produced strictly for a movie. When the soundtracks are created, recorded and synced up with a movie [it] cannot be used in another movie; they can’t be used for anything else without a residual payment being made,” said Hair.

He noted that just as the AFM was wrapping up a successor CBA with the motion picture companies the members found that the movie houses were reusing clips without compensating the musicians.

“While we were negotiating a successor agreement, we discovered that there were a lot of soundtrack clips that were clipped out of movies and made available to other movies without payment. We do have a formula that the companies can pay to make those clips available to other signatory companies. But those rules weren’t followed, and the time limits that the clips can be used—two minutes—the companies overshot that time limit, so additional payments are owed. We’re going to dig deep and make the [companies] pay,” Hair said.

But this isn’t the only lawsuit that the union is waging. According to Hair, the movie companies are offshoring work to other countries that are costing AFM members their jobs.

“For example, the movie Interstellar, which was filmed and photographed here in the U.S., but was taken to Europe for the score, and under our agreements that’s a violation; AFM musicians should have been employed here in this country for the scoring of that movie,” said Hair.

When we asked which of the two lawsuits the union would be pursuing more aggressively, Hair said they would both be equally, and aggressively, pursued.

“I would not try to take a bias position in favor or either one. Every provision, every contractual requirement in every agreement is important. They all have to be lived up to and abided by the employer. The union exists to enforce the agreements, and we’re going to enforce every provision of every one.”

@marcbuss marc@laborpress.org


June 8, 2015

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