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WGA Packaging Fee Lawsuit Delayed to August 2021 by Pandemic

United Talent Agency left legal conflict after signing Writers Guild’s franchise agreement last month

The trial between the Writers Guild of America, Creative Artists Agency and William Morris Endeavor over packaging fees has been postponed five months to August 2021, according to court documents obtained by TheWrap.

The move was mutually agreed upon by lawyers for both the WGA and the agencies in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as to give time to resolve issues regarding the scope of discovery for the trial.

The two agencies filed a lawsuit against the WGA last year accusing the guild of participating in an “illegal boycott” by having its members terminate representation with their agents after agencies refused to give up packaging fees — payments from a studio to agencies in exchange for packaging talent for a project — and affiliate production outlets. The WGA has filed its own suit against the agencies, arguing that packaging fees are a violation of agents’ fiduciary duty to their clients.

Over the past year, the legal battle has changed immensely. Efforts by the agencies to get the guild’s charges against them dismissed were partially successful as a federal district court judge removed several key charges, including federal racketeering charges. The agencies said in April that Birotte’s ruling was a “resounding victory” and that guild leadership “led thousands of writers over a cliff.”

But as the pandemic has dragged on and forced hundreds of layoffs across the major agencies, the tide has turned in favor of the WGA. Last month, the guild reached a deal with United Talent Agency, one of the agencies involved in the lawsuit, to phase out packaging fees in the next two years and withdraw their litigation in exchange for allowing writers to be represented by them again. ICM Partners, another major agency not involved with the lawsuit, also agreed to phase out packaging fees, leaving CAA and WME as the two remaining holdouts.

Pamela Chelin contributed to this story.