Mar 23, 2017
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The Legal Travails of Big Animation
by Karl Cohen
'Life of Pi''s Visual Effects team took Oscars in 2013, a year when a lot of VFX companies were struggling with poor working conditions and broken business models. photo: courtesy Jason Merritt/Getty Images
HISTORY SEEMS TO BE REPEATING
itself as the US government accuses Sony, Disney, Dreamworks Animation and Blue Sky for allegedly colluding to deny VFX workers better working conditions and compensation.
A California judge has upheld their right to sue in this anti-poaching case. A big part of the latest lawsuit has to do with wages. This is not the lawsuit that animators won last year.
The suing workers say that the studios met once a year at the California offices of Croner Company to “set the parameters of a compensation survey” that “provides wage and salary ranges for the studios’ technical and artistic positions, broken down by position and experience level.” The studios shared information related to budgets and discussed how overtime was handled.
The studios allegedly carried out a conspiracy “in a manner specifically designed to avoid detection." For example avoiding detailing the agreements in written documents, making misleading statements on recruiting websites and brochures, and taking actions in the prior litigation—including lying under oath and shielding documents under attorney-client privilege.
The 2010 suit against Pixar, Lucasfilm, Apple, Google, Adobe and Intuit was settled for $9 million. The new suit is asking for a settlement worth about $415 million. The 2010 suit dates back to the 1980s when George Lucas sold Pixar to Steve Jobs, and Jobs, Lucas and Ed Catmull agreed to restrain their competition for the skilled labor that worked for the two companies.
Then other studios allegedly got involved. Part of that suit was based on a letter from an HR person at Pixar that says, "With regard to [ILM], Sony, Blue Sky, etc., we have no contractual obligations, but we have a gentleman’s agreement not to directly solicit/poach from their employee pool."
Karl Cohen is an animator, educator and director of the local chapter of the International Animation Society and can be reached
Posted on Sep 17, 2015 - 01:24 AM