History of Foreign Levies

During the 1980s, various European countries began to adopt laws imposing levies on blank cassettes (and later DVDs), and recording equipment designed to provide compensation to rights holders, including "authors," of the motion pictures and television programs that were exhibited within each country and that were subject to home recording and other uses. Some countries also imposed levies on cable retransmissions and video rentals. Under copyright regimes and related laws in these same countries, film and television directors are considered to be "authors" of motion pictures. Private collecting societies are authorized to collect, allocate and distribute the levies to the affected rights holders.

A dispute arose between the DGA and the Writers Guild of America, west, Inc. (WGA), on the one hand, and the member companies of the Motion Picture Association and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, on the other hand, regarding the distribution to U.S. authors of levies collected by the foreign societies. The Companies asserted that under their collective bargaining agreements with the Guilds, U.S. copyright law, and the work for hire and assignment clauses in individual employment contracts with directors and writers, they were the sole "authors" of the films and television programs they produced. The Companies thus asserted they were entitled to receive 100% of the levies. The Guilds, however, claimed that under the relevant European laws, the individual directors and writers of the films and television programs were the "authors" entitled to receive the authors' portion of the levies.

The DGA spent, and continues to spend, considerable time and resources fighting for the directors' share of these foreign levies. Ultimately, on June 1, 1990, the Guilds and the Companies entered into a Foreign Levy Agreement ("FLA") that governed the allocation of foreign levies among directors, writers, and the Companies. The FLA specified that a certain percentage of the "author's share" of the foreign levies collected on films and television programs would be distributed to DGA and WGA, on behalf of the individual directors and writers whom they represented. In general, all claims to the "author's share" are filed, in the first instance, by the Companies (or their representatives) on their own behalf, and on behalf of the Guilds pursuant to the FLA. The Guilds and the Companies also agreed, based upon a condition initially imposed by the German patent office, that the Guilds would distribute levies collected for all U.S. directors and writers regardless of whether they were Guild members and regardless of whether the film or television program was covered by a collective bargaining agreement. Following the resolution of the dispute between the Guilds and the Companies, the Guilds entered into comparable agreements with representatives of independent producers and distributors. The portion of the combined author's share the DGA has obtained has steadily and significantly increased over time from 15% to 50%.

The DGA has also spent considerable time and effort in negotiating representation agreements with the foreign collecting societies. At the present time, there are 19 countries in Europe (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, United Kingdom, Ukraine, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland), and one country in Latin America (Argentina) remitting levies to the DGA. Furthermore, DGA monitors the collection and distribution of foreign levies by all these societies to insure that the payments to DGA members and non-member directors are consistent with the obligations of the societies to U.S. "authors" under the terms of the representation agreements.