4:18pm PT by Eriq Gardner
Film and TV Script Website Accused of Violating Talent Agent Licensing Law
Breakdown Services, a website that acts as a middleman between casting agents and those repping actors and actresses, is the latest to contend with the Talent Agencies Act, the California law that says only licensed talent agents can procure employment for clients.
The company operates a website that analyzes scripts for television shows, movies and video games. It gets the information from some 300 casting directors, and the "breakdowns" are then distributed to licensed talent agents and qualified personal managers for the purposes of connecting actors to jobs.
Over the past couple of years, Breakdown Services has been targeting various individuals who allegedly have improperly shared access to the company's secure website. One of the individuals sued is Adam Seid, a former talent manager.
Seid maintains he's been the victim of identity theft, and his attorney, Matthew Hess, says they can prove it.
"During the course of this lawsuit, the parties took the deposition of an individual named Roderick McCarthy, who admitted — under oath — that he forged Adam's signature on a contract with Breakdown Services and also obtained a credit card in Adam Seid's name," explains Hess.
But rather than make that defense at a trial currently scheduled for February 10, 2016, Seid has elected to first go on the offense against Breakdown Services by filing a petition before the California Labor Commissioner. In doing so, he raises the issue over whether selling access to script breakdowns to personal managers can be deemed illegal.
"We are contending that Breakdown is aiding and abetting the unlawful procurement of employment in violation of the Talent Agencies Act," says Hess.
The filing of the petition — whatever its merits — threatens to delay the resolution of the lawsuit brought by Breakdown Services against Seid. The judge has paused the case, explaining in an adopted tentative ruling, "To the extent that Breakdown sells access to the Breakdown Express service to personal managers, permits personal managers to submit actors and actresses to casting directors via the website, and refuses to permit actors to use its service and procure employment for themselves[,] it is engaged in 'the aiding and abetting' of illegal procurement by the personal managers and conspiring with the personal managers to engage in unlawful procurement. Based on defendant's allegations in his petition to the Labor Commissioner, he has raised a colorable defense."
It's up to the California Labor Commissioner to address the merits of this claim if it so chooses.
Meanwhile, Breakdown Services has been having more luck on the East Coast.
Last year, the company filed a lawsuit against three other individuals — Frank Moran, Louise Yanofsky and Steven Rubin — for allegedly using aliases and selling access to its secure site to actors and actresses for monthly fees. In response, the defendants raised doubts whether "breakdowns" of TV and film scripts amounted to trade secrets or constitute proprietary information.
At a hearing last month, though, the judge wasn't so much interested in that argument nor the one that the defendants were merely trying to get actors jobs. She was more fascinated by the defendants admitting to making money selling access to the site.
"Why don't you do litigation and say [what Breakdown is doing] is unconstitutional, unfair practices, and bring in the federal government?" asked Judge Shlomo Hagler of the defendants' lawyer. "But to steal it?... [What your clients did] doesn't sound like altruism. It sounds like a profit-making venture."
On Wednesday, the judge granted a preliminary injunction against Moran, Yanofsky and Rubin.