As members of SAG-AFTRA likely know, actors receive royal payments for purchases of blank VHS tapes and DVDs, and cable reruns and rentals of media they appeared in. Often this can make up a significant amount of an actor’s yearly income. This applies to foreign countries as well, but a letter sent to SAG-AFTRA by a group of actors alleges that the union has not been paying the proper amount to actors for more than a decade.
Much of this stems from a 2007 class action lawsuit spearheaded by Ken Osmond, who sued SAG claiming that the union withheld foreign levy funds from him for Leave It to Beaver. While the case with Osmond was settled in 2010, the letter sent to SAG-AFTRA accuses SAG-AFTRA of not fully disclosing the terms of the settlement in proper time and whether or not actors have received the foreign royalties owed to them, along with also accusing the union of generally mishandling the funds.
The accusation is disputed by SAG-AFTRA’s counsel Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, who points out that famed accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers audits the foreign royalty payment process, and has already distributed $14.2 million in foreign royalties to actors since 2007, with a remaining $7.4 million left to distribute (unclaimed royalties are donated to the SAG Foundation or the Actors Fund if they are not claimed for three years). Members can check an online database to see if they are owed money.
The actors behind the letter, which include former SAG president Ed Asner (who was also a vocal opponent to the recent SAG-AFTRA merger), request a response from SAG-AFTRA by October 2.