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AFTRA in Action

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AFTRA plays a critical role as an advocate on entertainment and media industry issues, whether working with the AFL-CIO, sister unions, other organizations or as the sole voice on behalf of members. Our efforts range from supporting the Employee Free Choice Act and the Performance Rights Act to fighting for equal employment opportunities and diversity in the workplace and protecting intellectual properity rights and so much more.


Here are some examples of how AFTRA has been working for its members for the last five years.

FEDERAL LEGISLATION

Employee Free Choice Act

On Tuesday, March 10, the Employee Free Choice Act was introduced in BOTH the Senate and the House of Representatives (H.R. 1409 and S. 560). But with both houses of Congress now considering the bill, there's no time to waste. Click here to send your representatives an email asking for their support.

Performance Rights

"Recording artists fuel the business that sustains radio in the U.S.," says AFTRA National Executive Director Kim Roberts Hedgpeth. "All other advanced nations recognize artists' value to terrestrial radio, except the United States. The U.S. recognizes a performance right for artists on all other platforms, including satellite radio, Internet webcast radio, and cable radio channels. The federal government now has an opportunity to correct this final area of inequity—terrestrial radio in the U.S.—by creating a performance right for all recording artists to receive fair compensation for the value they bring to the American airwaves and our culture as a whole." Click here to read the press release.

AFTRA National Executive Director Kim Roberts-Hedgepeth's open letter to the National Association of Broadcasters, published in The Washington Post on June 26, 2009. Click here to read more.

"Singers tell Congress: Money (That's What I Want)" Click here to read the AP article.

Performance Rights Act information sheets:

Click here to see how the Performance Rights Act is fair to musicians, fair to other platforms and fair to radio.

Click here to read why lawmakers should oppose the Local Radio Freedom Act.

Intellectual Property Rights

AFTRA National Executive Director Kim Roberts Hedgpeth praised the President’s signing of the Intellectual Property Rights legislation into law saying:

"AFTRA members across the nation welcome the signing of the Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act of 2008 into law. Protecting the work of creative artists and ensuring their ability to earn a living is one component of a thriving economy. Our elected leaders have taken a bold step forward in recognizing the contributions of AFTRA members to our economy as worth protecting. We particularly applaud our partners at the Copyright Alliance for joining with AFTRA members to ensure victory on this important issue.”

Key components of the legislation include: increased penalties for copyright violations and counterfeiting; strengthened government enforcement of intellectual property and counterfeiting regulations by providing funding for additional FBI agents and Justice Department personnel dedicated solely to intellectual property protection and prosecuting those caught violating the law; a new Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator as a permanent part of the White House staff to coordinate the federal government's intellectual property and counterfeiting enforcement operations across all departments and agencies.

Copyright Protection

On April 25, 2006, the American Federation of Musicians (AFM), the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), The Recording Academy, and the Recording Artists’ Coalition (RAC) endorsed amendments to Section 114 of the Copyright Act introduced today by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Bill Frist (R-TN), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

The legislation would protect performers’ income from sales and transmissions of their recordings by requiring content protection measures in digital transmissions and by providing platform parity in the licensing measures that apply to various types of digital music services. The legislation also requires that uncertainties in the licensing of sound recordings for use on the Internet be resolved. AFTRA National Executive Director Kim Roberts Hedgpeth said, “Radical developments in the transmission of digital music have created an urgent need for legislation to protect artists’ property interests in their recordings and ensure they are fairly compensated regardless of the platform over which their music is played. AFTRA is encouraged by this move towards protecting the artists whose music fuels this industry.”

Indecency Legislation

With thousands of messages sent by members of AFTRA to senators, on May 18, 2006, the U.S. Senate approved a version of the broadcast indecency bill supported by AFTRA that does not impose fines on individual Americans for broadcast decency violations. AFTRA members sent nearly 5,000 email messages asking senators to support the bill authored by Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) that increases fines on television and radio broadcast stations but does not impose performer fines or license revocation. AFTRA members will continue monitoring Congress as House and Senate negotiators will have to work out differences in the two versions of the bill before any increase in fines can become law.

On November 29, 2005, AFTRA testified before the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee’s “Open Forum on Decency” and defended individuals against being fined for corporate decisions. As a representative of broadcasters and recording artists, AFTRA expressed grave concerns about certain provisions contained in the bill addressing this subject that was passed by the House of Representatives. Tom Carpenter, AFTRA’s General Counsel/Director of Legislative Affairs, joined a panel that included Bruce Reese of the National Association of Broadcasters and the late Jack Valenti, former head of the Motion Picture Association of America, among others.

As of March 8, 2005, the Senate was poised to consider its own version of legislation purportedly intended to curb indecency on the airwaves in the form of the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act (S.193). The Senate version currently does not contain fines on individual performers and announcers. Meanwhile, on February 17, H.R. 310, "The Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act of 2005," passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 389-38. The House version of the bill eliminates existing warnings and allows the FCC to assess half million dollar ($500,000) fines against both licensees and individual performers for each and every utterance deemed "indecent." The FCC’s standard for indecency remains unclear and subject to change. Click here for more information>>

(History: On October 7, 2004, all provisions pertaining to fines for broadcast material deemed "indecent" were stripped from the Department of Defense Authorization Bill. This action, which would not have happened without member calls and letters, meant there were no increased FCC fines against individual performers, announcers or broadcast journalists passed last session. At that time, AFTRA realized that the debate was far from over and was almost certain that another bill would surface when Congress reconvened.)

Runaway Production

Historic Runaway Bill Signed into Law. Ground breaking tax-incentive legislation intended to encourage production in the United States passed the House and Senate on October 11 and was signed into law by President Bush on October 22. The American Jobs Creation Act provides a tax break to qualified television and film productions with budgets between $1-15 million, with the cap increasing to $20 million for productions made in distressed areas. The tax break is triggered only when 75% of services are performed in the United States. For more information, click here.


 

STATE LEGISLATION

California: AB 64 Anti-Piracy Legislation

This anti-piracy legislation was signed into law on February 22, 2006, authored by Assemblymember Rebecca Cohn and co-authored by Senator Kevin Murray. The bill amends a section of the California Penal Code to reduce the required number of audio recordings involved from 1,000 to 100 in order to prosecute an offense as a felony. Under the new law, the failure to disclose the origin (manufacturer, author, artist, performer, or producer) of a recording when done for financial gain can be prosecuted as a felony if the offense involves at least 100 articles of audio recordings. The law also includes failure to disclose origins of audiovisual works, but that number had been previously reduced to 100.

Connecticut: AFTRA-Backed Bill Barring 'Noncompete' Provisions for Broadcasters Signed by Connecticut Governor

On July 13, 2007, Legislation supported by members of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists to ban "noncompete" and "right of first refusal" provisions from the employment contracts of broadcast and other employees was signed into law Thursday by Connecticut Governor M. Jodi Rell (R).

Massachusetts: Massachusetts Governor Signs Film/TV Tax Incentive Bill Into Law

On November 23, 2005, then-Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney signed a tax incentive bill that the Boston AFTRA/SAG office, along with numerous other industry members, had been working to enact in Massachusetts. The new law makes the Bay State a competitive venue for motion picture and commercial production, and not surprisingly is already garnering interest from motion picture studios that would not otherwise have come to the Commonwealth. The new law will take effect in 90 days but will be retroactive to January 1, 2006. Its principal elements include a 20% tax credit on all Massachusetts source payroll, a 25% tax credit on qualified production expense in Massachusetts, and a sales tax credit for producers who spend a minimum aggregate of $250,000 per year in the Commonwealth. The law is in place through the year 2013.

Maryland: Film Production Wage Rebate Program Signed Into Law

Introduced into the Maryland Legislature in late January 2005, the Film Production Activity Wage Rebate Grant Program was passed unanimously by both Chambers of the Maryland Legislature and was signed into law on Tuesday, April 26. Productions have already committed to film in Maryland because of the new incentives.

California: Health Care Legislation Introduced

On February 23, 2005, State Senator Sheila Kuehl introduced SB 840, the California Health Insurance Reliability Act (CHIRA). According to Kuehl, the bill will cover every Californian with comprehensive health insurance and guarantee their right to choose their own physician, while containing health care cost inflation. By slashing the administrative costs of health insurance and utilizing California's purchasing power to buy prescription drugs and medical equipment in bulk, it is estimated that CHIRA will save $25 billion in the first year in statewide health care spending. At a press conference earlier in January, Senator Sheila Kuehl released a report entitled The Healthcare for All Californians Act: Cost and Economic Impacts (The Lewin Report) which forms the model on which CHIRA is based.

California: Anti-Piracy Legislation

On September 21, 2004: SB 1506, a California Internet Anti-Piracy law, was signed making it a crime for a person located in California who knows that a particular recording or audiovisual work is commercial, to knowingly electronically disseminate all or substantially all of that work to more than 10 other people without disclosing his or her e-mail address, and the title of the recording or audiovisual work. The bill was actively supported by a number of industry guilds and unions including AFTRA.

New York State: COBRA Assistance Program

The New York Health Insurance Continuation Assistance Demonstration Program, (the "COBRA Bill"), signed into law September 21, 2004, is the first-of-its-kind legislation and will provide a 50% subsidy, for those members whose income qualifies them, to assist in paying for COBRA extended health insurance premiums.

California: Rights for Recording Artists

On July 15, 2004, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the "Recording Industry Accounting Practices Act" (SB 1034) into law. The bill – championed by the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) - provides recording artists under royalty contracts the statutory right to confirm, through audits, proper payment for their work, and conduct such audits - or have such audits conducted by their chosen representatives - individually or in groups. The bill also codifies the ability to hire auditors on a contingency fee basis, which, combined with the ability to audit in groups, should increase the probability that artists will actually pursue audits.

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