DGA settles levies lawsuit


The DGA said Monday that it has settled a class-action lawsuit filed by nonmembers who challenged the way the guild collected and disbursed foreign levies.

The settlement works out an arrangement in which an outside accounting firm will conduct an independent review of the guild's foreign levies program. The DGA also will set up a Web site for nonmembers to register and provide information on the site regarding unpaid levies.

"The DGA is proud of its efforts to obtain and ensure each director's right to a share of foreign levies, and that we have distributed tens of millions of dollars of levies to so many directors in our industry," DGA assistant executive director Morgan Rumpf said. "Although we dispute the fundamental premise of the litigation and stand by our efforts and results in distributing foreign levies to members and nonmembers alike, we are pleased to have resolved this dispute amicably in its early stages and to be moving forward."

The plaintiffs' attorney, Neville Johnson, said the settlement brings "accountability and transparency" to the program and gives nonmembers full disclosure of how the foreign levies are distributed.

Until the early 1990s, the foreign levies, which are imposed for such things as home video rentals and cable distribution, were collected by production companies. But in 1990, the WGA and DGA challenged the companies' right to collect and retain 100% of the monies.

To settle the dispute, all sides entered into a new agreement under which the DGA and WGA collected the authors' share on U.S. film and TV programs covered by the unions' collective bargaining agreement.

But the lawsuit, filed in September 2005 by William Webb, claimed the DGA failed to properly disburse those foreign levies.

The DGA denied the allegations. To date, it has distributed more than $48 million in levies to DGA members with more than $4.9 million paid to 2,000 directors who are not members.

The WGA and SAG also were sued by writers over the collection of foreign levies. Those lawsuits are still pending.