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British Equity Taking Legal Action Against Casting Directory It Accuses Of “Exploiting Its Monopoly Position”

Equity is taking legal action against a casting directory platform that it says is charging actors exorbitant membership fees and “exploiting its monopoly position in the industry.”

The UK actors union posted an article to its website yesterday revealing that it has written to lawyers representing the Spotlight casting directory, which is owned by American outfit Global Talent Systems.

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The ‘Letter Before Action’ informs Spotlight that if it does not comply or provide clear evidence that the subscription of Spotlight members is not being exploited beyond what regulations allow, then Equity will take class action at the High Court to enforce a reduction in fees. Lawyers have asked Spotlight to “alter access to their website so all members can see all profiles within the directory,” the union added.

Equity accuses Spotlight of over-charging actors to access the directory. The practice of charging for membership to such directories is illegal in some sectors but not TV and film. But while UK law allows Spotlight to charge for membership, it states that a subscription charge should be “no more than a reasonable estimate of the cost of production.”

Last year, Equity changed its formal position to say that these exemptions should be ended entirely, and it says it has support from the opposition Labour Party, who may have won power by the end of this year.

According to Equity, Spotlight has 90,000 members and earns income in excess of £1.25M ($1.6M) a month. “It seems implausible that this figure represents a reasonable estimate of the costs of production and circulation of the directory,” the union added. “It is certainly incomparable with charges to use other casting platforms in the UK, Europe, and United States.”

Equity accused Spotlight of “exploiting its monopoly position in the industry” and said this concern has grown since it was acquired by Global Talent Systems in 2021. “The necessity of a Spotlight profile for most artists in the industry has led to their subscriptions being called a ‘Tax on Hope’,” it added.

Equity said it has “offered to work with Spotlight to examine their costs during a continuation of the service whilst ensuring that our members are only paying for those reasonable costs as permitted by the regulations.”

A spokesman for Global Talent Systems the Equity letter was “disingenuous and factually inaccurate.”

“We have referred the matter to our legal team to respond accordingly,” he added.

“For almost 100 years, Spotlight has proudly offered performers the most cost-efficient and effective means to promote themselves, and to be discovered for the best professional productions, and we have continued to evolve with our industry over this period. Consistent throughout has been our passion and commitment to facilitating inclusion in the casting process and the industry through partnerships, advocacy and our own bursary programmes.  As we have done for nearly a century, we will continue to expand on that mission, offering events, new services and features, and information and skills development for our members to assist in their careers as professional, self-employed performers, based on genuine feedback from our members.”

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