A federal judge has granted the WGA and WME’s request for a six-month postponement of their anti-trust trial, which had been set to start on August 24. It’s now been pushed back to Feb. 22, 2022. The two sides said in a court filing earlier this week that they sought the delay “to have time to focus on settlement talks without jeopardizing the overall litigation schedule.” They also noted that “certain discovery disputes, motion practice, and the Covid-19 pandemic have created unforeseeable delays in the discovery process.”
“Having reviewed the parties’ stipulation, and finding good cause, the Court hereby extends the case schedule,” wrote U.S. District Court Judge André Birotte Jr., who is presiding over the case. Discovery in the case and the last date to hear motions have also been extended by six months.
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On Monday, WME said that it’s been in “substantive discussions” with the guild to end their 21-month-long legal battle over packaging fees and the agency’s affiliation with its related production entity, Endeavor Content.
WME is the last of the major agencies not to have signed the guild’s franchise agreement, which phases out packaging fees next year and limits the agencies’ ownership interests in affiliated production companies to just 20%.
During a Zoom hearing on Dec. 18, Birotte repeatedly urged attorneys for WME and the union to settle their dispute before it goes to trial. “Come on folks. Get together. Get this done,” he told them.
The WGA’s battle with the major agencies began in April 2018, when it notified the Association of Talent Agents of its intent to renegotiate its Artists’ Manager Basic Agreement. A year later, writers voted overwhelmingly to terminate the agreement and to fire all of their agents who refused to sign the guild’s Code of Conduct. Since then, the WGA has negotiated 10 successive versions of its franchise agreement to accommodate reasonable agency proposals – beginning in May 2019, when it signed Verve; again last summer, when it signed UTA and ICM, and last month when it signed CAA.