Settlement in class-action lawsuit over actors' foreign royalties goes to judge for approval

Attorneys for the Screen Actors Guild and the actor who played Eddie Haskell on "Leave It to Beaver" have reached a settlement in a class-action lawsuit over the distribution of millions of dollars in foreign royalties to actors.

Attorneys for the union and actor Ken Osmond filed the agreement for a judge's approval on Monday.

SAG has already paid out millions in royalties to the performers, but the agreement spells out how both remaining and future royalties will be distributed.

The lawsuit is the last of three cases filed against unions representing tens of thousands of actors, writers and directors over royalties that have been generated in Europe since the 1980s. The payments were created to compensate the performers for video rentals, blank media and, in some countries, cable retransmissions.

The settlement requires an independent audit of payments that have already been made and sets out disclosure guidelines for how SAG handles the royalties. The union is not admitting any wrongdoing, according to the settlement.

Neville Johnson, the attorney who represented Osmond and plaintiffs in the other cases, said the actor and former Los Angeles police officer was proud of the outcome. Osmond sued SAG in September 2007.

"This is the end of a long saga to get all of the creative talent adequately paid by these large unions," Johnson said.

"Screen Actors Guild is proud of its efforts to claim and distribute foreign royalties on behalf of our members," said SAG Deputy National Executive Director and General Counsel Duncan Crabtree-Ireland. "We have distributed nearly $8.5 million — more than half of the total funds collected since the inception of SAG's foreign royalties program."

Royalties had been paid to more than 70,000 actors and it was "money that would otherwise have gone unclaimed and been lost to them forever," he said.

Johnson credited Osmond — who played the mischievous Haskell on "Leave It to Beaver" in the 1950s and 1960s TV series — with pressing the issue.

"It takes a lot of guts for anybody to stand up and challenge a powerful organization, and Ken had the integrity and the guts to do so and all actors are in his debt," Johnson said.

The agreement requires the approval of Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Carl J. West, a judge who sits on a special court that specializes in hearing complex litigation matters such as class action lawsuits. His preliminary approval will likely come at a hearing Sept. 20, but it will not go into effect later this year.