Casting Networks Faces Class Action Lawsuit Over Alleged Pay-to-Play Audition Fees

Casting Networks Faces Class Action Lawsuit Over Alleged Pay-to-Play Audition Fees Photo Source: Adobe Stock Image

Casting Networks, a prominent talent listing service, is currently embroiled in a proposed class action lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court. The suit accuses the company of exploiting actors by charging them fees for audition opportunities, a practice alleged to violate a California law aimed at protecting performers from predatory practices in the entertainment industry.

The complaint centers around the "pay-for-play" model, which purportedly breaches California's Fee-Related Talent Services Law. This law, established in 2009, prohibits the charging of fees for the submission of headshots, reels, or other audition materials. The lawsuit alleges that Casting Networks has "commercialized, gatekept, and exerted complete control of the casting process," effectively tying actors' ability to audition to their willingness to pay.

California's Fee-Related Talent Services Law was designed to safeguard performers and aspiring talents from predatory practices often encountered in the entertainment industry. This legislation is a critical component of California's efforts to regulate the relationship between talent and those who offer them potential employment opportunities.

The law specifically targets the practices surrounding the charges levied on talent for the chance to audition or be seen by casting directors and agents. It prohibits talent services from charging fees for the submission of headshots, reels, or any other promotional materials as part of the auditioning process. Essentially, the law makes it illegal for any company or individual to require payment from performers as a prerequisite for accessing job opportunities.

Under this law, any service that offers to facilitate employment must not:

  • Charge fees upfront for the promise of securing auditions or employment.
  • Require actors or performers to purchase additional promotional materials or services as a condition of accessing the casting process.
  • Accept payment for referring actors to agents, casting directors, or any third party who might further charge the actors.

Additionally, the law mandates transparency in operations by requiring such businesses to post a $50,000 bond with the state and to provide clear contracts that outline what the performer is signing up for, what they can expect to receive, and the total cost of the services provided. These contracts must also allow for a cancellation period within which the talent can reconsider their commitment.

Violations of this law can lead to significant legal repercussions, including fines and potential criminal charges, as seen in previous enforcement actions by the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office. The intent behind the law is to prevent exploitation within the industry and to ensure a fair and transparent market for talent services, thereby protecting performers from being unduly charged for opportunities that should reasonably be free.

The current legal action reflects broader concerns about the fairness of such practices, especially following a 2018 crackdown by the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office. This crackdown led to criminal charges against numerous industry professionals, including acting workshop owners and casting directors, for staging paid auditions. The industry has since seen significant changes, largely moving online, where services like Casting Networks have grown, providing platforms where thousands of subscribers pay a monthly fee in hopes of connecting with casting directors and securing auditions.

Casting Networks advertises itself as a software service that helps top casting directors manage submissions from talent, schedule, and share auditions. For a premium subscription fee of $29.99 per month, members can submit unlimited auditions, connect with agents, and upload various promotional materials. The lawsuit criticizes this model, stating it forces actors to pay to potentially secure work, a practice the complaint argues is akin to "blatant theft."

The proposed class action aims to represent California residents who have paid for subscriptions over the past four years. The claims include violations of laws regulating unfair competition, false advertising, and fee-related talent services. Christina Le of the Clarkson Law Firm, representing the proposed class, emphasized the exploitative nature of this system, stating, "Casting Networks is essentially offering to do for producers what they could not do themselves under the law—take money in exchange for the honor of auditioning. Actors who go out and audition for roles are already giving their labor away for free. Adding a pay-to-play requirement on top runs dangerously close to blatant theft.”

Bridget Luckey
Bridget Luckey
Bridget studied Communications and Marketing at California State University, Long Beach. She also has experience in the live music events industry, which has allowed her to travel to festivals around the world. During this period, she acquired valuable expertise in branding, marketing, event planning, and public relations.
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