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Hollywood Managers: Calif. Talent Agencies Act Unconstitutional

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LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A prominent association of Hollywood personal managers has filed a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of longtime licensing requirements for those who represent film, television and other performing artists.

The National Conference of Personal Managers (NCOPM) filed the suit against defendants California Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr., Attorney General Kamala D. Harris and Labor Commissioner Julie A. Su over the California Talent Agencies Act (TAA).

The complaint (PDF) filed the U. S. District Court for the Central District of California claims the TAA “violates freedom of speech and association guarantees of the First Amendment, indentured servitude prohibitions of the 13th Amendment, due process and equal protection provisions of the 14th Amendment and the Interstate Commerce Clause of the U. S. Constitution.”

California Labor Code Section 1700.5 states, “No person shall engage in or carry on the occupation of a talent agency without first procuring a license therefore from the Labor Commissioner,” legislation which the NCOPM claims has been used by the California Labor Commissioner has penalized personal managers for allegedly acting as unlicensed talent agencies.

The lawsuit, which seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, further alleges that the legislation has voided personal management contracts and forced management commissions to be forfeited or returned, which NCOPM President Clinton Ford Billups Jr. said is hindering their ability to adequately serve their clients.

“The provisions, interpretation and enforcement of the TAA have resulted in personal managers being unfairly singled out without due process and denied the ability to pursue lawful business opportunities to the detriment of all personal managers and the artists which they represent,” said Billups.

Billups claims that commission payments to personal managers “that have been either wrongfully disgorged by the Labor Commissioner or negotiated away by a manager afraid to face a TAA controversy” are estimated to top $500 million.

The debate over the function of personal managers in the entertainment industry has spanned over three decades since Assembly Bill 2535 was first signed into law in 1978, which the lawsuit claims served to fuel confusion over whether both talent agents and managers should be licensed.

In addition to seeking a declaration that the TAA is unconstitutional, NCOPM is also seeking a preliminary and permanent prohibitory injunction forbidding the State of California from enforcing or attempting to enforce the TAA.

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