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November 1, 2002

Actors' Equity Joins AFTRA to Support NY State Legislation Calling for End to Unfair Contracts for Recording Artists

"Artistic Freedom Act" Would Set 7-Year Limit on Recording Contracts

Actors' Equity has joined AFTRA and other Entertainment Industry unions to support legislation introduced in Albany to prevent recording artists from being bound to excessive contractual term limits. The "Artistic Freedom Act" (Bill #A11926) would limit the length of time that recording contracts could be enforced, up to a maximum of seven years. The standard recording contract provides a one-sided obligation that can bind performers for up to 20 years to inequitable terms forced upon them before the artists had more bargaining power. The bill is sponsored by State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D/62nd District), with Assembly members Roger L. Green (D/57th District), Joe Morelle (D/132nd District and Catherine Nolan (D/37th District). Speaker Silver and Assembly Member Green were joined by Roberta Flack and Antonia Bennett in announcing the bill at a news conference held by the Artist Empowerment Coalition on October 29th in New York.

High-ranking Union officials, including AFTRA Representatives, AFM President Tom Lee, Denis Hughes, President of the 2.5 million-member NY State AFL-CIO and Equity's Eastern Regional Director Carol Waaser, endorsed the proposed legislation. Waaser said that Equity will support the Coalition's efforts to win passage of the bill because "as performers, we are not isolated from the battles of other artists and craftspeople in our industry." AFL-CIO/DPE President Paul Almeida also joined in support.

Ann Chaitovitz, AFTRA's National Director for Sound Recordings, explained that "initial artist contracts are one-sided and unfair - most artists are not able to support themselves while they continue creating, despite the fact that the record companies are earning revenues from the artist's work. This is about fairness and is clearly a labor issue." She applauded the work of Stevie Wonder, Prince, Roberta Flack and other Coalition performers on behalf of artists' rights.

AFTRA negotiates the Sound Recording Code with the five major record labels, which covers both royalty artists and background recording artists. Current talks have been on hiatus since the summer but will renew shortly on a new master contract. Among other issues, AFTRA is advocating contract term limits in its negotiations.

For more information, visit www.aftra.org.

David Lotz
Director of Communications
November 1, 2002

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