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Pact Lapses, but Agents, Actors Keep Talking

Entertainment: 'Master franchise agreement' remains in effect as the two sides try to reach an agreement.

January 22, 2002|JAMES BATES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A 63-year-old agreement governing relations between agents and actors lapsed Monday, but the two sides agreed to continue abiding by it while trying to forge a new pact.

The "master franchise agreement" formally ran out at midnight Sunday when lengthy weekend talks between the Screen Actors Guild and two groups, the Assn. of Talent Agencies and the National Assn. of Talent Representatives, failed to produce an agreement.

Agents say the pact is outdated and onerous in today's global media environment and have been pressing for changes they argue are needed to survive financially.

Some of those changes include the freedom to attract capital from outside investors such as advertising agencies, to expand into other businesses such as Internet firms and to revise commissions to allow them to collect payments on DVD and video sales.

Actors have been reluctant to change the rules out of fear it may lead to conflicts of interest and allow producers who hire actors also to own the agencies that represent talent.

In a statement, SAG said it wants to make sure agents are not compromised in representing clients and will not become employers, and that all changes benefit artists as well as agents.

It is unclear what will happen if no agreement is reached.

Agents could set their own rules, although it is unlikely that would go over well with their clients.

The agreement originally was made to protect actors from unscrupulous agents. The two sides have been at a stalemate over changes for two years.

Although the agreement technically expired in October 2000, a 15-month grace period was built in before it lapsed.

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