Hollywood Docket: 'Selma' Raises Wage Lawsuit From Casting Assistant

Some legal developments in entertainment including Elizabeth Taylor's "Taj Mahal" diamond and how a controversy over pre-1972 music is impacting the airline industry.

In Selma, Ava DuVernay's Oscar-nominated film , Martin Luther King Jr. led thousands in a historic march for civil rights.

It obviously took a feat of casting to round-up those extras. The responsibility for doing this fell to Cynthia Stillwell.

Selma Productions and Stillwell Promotions are presently in court defending a lawsuit from Curtis Drafton, a casting assistant who claims violations under the Fair Labor Standards Act for unpaid minimum wages and overtime compensation. He's also demanded liquidated damages and says that Stillwell retaliated against him upon filing the lawsuit. Drafton says he was advised he'd be getting paid $150 for every day he worked between March and June in 2014. Now, he's in civil court.

The defendants — who don't include the film's big-name producers like Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Films or Brad Pitt's Plan B Entertainment — had the case removed from Georgia state court to federal jurisdiction earlier this month and filed an answer on Wednesday. They admit that Drafton was a casting assistant, but otherwise deny he's owed anything.

In other entertainment law news:

  • Elizabeth Taylor's estate is suing Christie's auction house over the famous "Taj Mahal" diamond given by Richard Burton on her 40th birthday. After Taylor died in 2011, the diamond sold for $8 million to a buyer, who later got Christie's to cancel the sale on the basis of the diamond's age. Though it was never guaranteed that the diamond traced back to the Mughal period hundreds of years ago, Christie's wants Taylor's estate to return money. A spokesperson for Christie's has commented that the money involved only represents a "small portion" of over $183.5 million proceeds from the Taylor auction.
  • An IFTA arbitrator has ordered IM Global to pay $186,000 to Studio Solutions Group, which distributes films in Taiwan. SSG has licensed about 93 films from IM Global over the years, and this dispute focused on nine of them including Welcome to the Punch, Inbetweeners and El Gringo. SSG made its advances on these films, but it allegedly owed IM Global money for other films, which caused IM Global to not deliver the films, terminate the agreement and re-license those films to another Taiwanese distributor. The arbitrator rules IM Global improperly interpreted the agreement and has also expressed the opinion that the penalty provision in IM Global's contract is unenforceable. Here's the complete ruling.
  • There's been many legal developments lately over pre-1972 sound recordings, which aren't covered by federal copyright law, but are being deemed by judges as protected under state law. SiriusXM has suffered most of the bad news, but Pandora has too. Earlier this week, a judge rejected Pandora's "publication" arguments with Pandora quickly filing an appeal. Meanwhile, the legal issue of pre-'72 music is popping up in all sorts of other ways. For example, on Monday, in a dispute between Universal Music and a company that supplies airlines with in-flight music, U.S. District Judge Margaret Morrow ruled that a 1978 law that deregulated the airline industry by forbidding states from enacting laws related to the pricing, routes and services of air carriers doesn't preempt infringement claims of pre-'72 sound recordings. Here's the full opinion.

Email: Eriq.Gardner@THR.com
Twitter: @eriqgardner

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