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   April 14, 2006

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Equity Prevails in "Pirates" Grievance

In 2005, Equity went to arbitration in a case involving the production of THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE at the Public Theatre.

Equity claimed that the theatre violated the August 25, 1980 Archival Agreement and the LORT Agreement when the show was broadcast on cable television. Originally the Public wanted to videotape the production and keep the tape for itself. It was acknowledged in that Archival Agreement that "no public showing of that tape is authorized until such time as appropriate terms are agreed to both by Equity and the Actors, which terms will also satisfy any applicable AFTRA minimum."

However, on May 4, 2001, the Employer, without Equity's authorization or knowledge, granted to Broadway Digital Entertainment (BDE) "the exclusive right to distribute Pirates "in all forms of television, home video, non-theatrical venues, and by means on the Internet/online…throughout the universe…" The Public falsely claimed that it "had the right to enter into this agreement and to grant all the rights." Clearly absent from the licensing agreement was any reference to Equity or the obligation to obtain Equity's authorization to release the Pirates video.

This all came to light when Senior Business Representative Ken Greenwood discovered, in the fall of 2001 that the video was being sold on the Internet. He contacted the parties concerned and began negotiations with the Public and BDE in order to resolve the matter. An agreement was reach on May 20, 2002 strictly limiting the use of the video to internet sale and payments were made to the Actors.

Then in August, 2004, Mr. Greenwood discovered that the video had been broadcast on cable TV on the Ovations Network without Equity's authorization. The LORT Agreement that covered this production explicitly provides, in Rule 64, "that there shall be no televising, or broadcasting of any production without the express permission of Equity and under terms and conditions established by it."

The theatre argued that BDE was responsible for obtaining Equity's authorization.

After hearing testimony and examining the Agreements in question, the arbitrator ruled in Equity's favor.

The appropriate remedy is an award of two weeks' salary for each actor and stage manager in the PIRATES cast, plus the applicable AFTRA rate for each, as well. This amounts to a payment of approximately $80,000, which will be split among the Equity members involved.

"The arbitration decision is extremely important because it says that theatre producers will be held liable for unauthorized broadcasts of Equity members even if they are not directly responsible for such broadcasts," noted Mr. Greenwood. Mr. Greenwood was the sole witness for Equity at the arbitration.

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