Just a few weeks after news that Blue Sky Studios had offered a multi-million dollar settlement, Sony Pictures Animation and Imageworks are now proposing a deal to resolve their roles in the on-going legal action by animation artists against major studios for alleged wage fixing and anti-poaching agreements. Reports say the settlement will be around $13 million.
According to a Case Management Statement filed last Friday, “Plaintiffs [who are the animation workers] have reached a settlement with Defendants Sony Pictures Imageworks Inc. and Sony Pictures Animation Inc. and by early next week will file a motion for preliminary approval of this settlement.” Further details of the settlement will be described during this motion while the plaintiff’s legal team is hoping to schedule a hearing with Judge Lucy Koh for the Sony settlement alongside the June 16 one for the Blue Sky deal.
Plaintiff Robert Nitsch, Jr., a former Dreamworks Animation visual effects artist, first filed his lawsuit in September 2014 and was quickly joined by plaintiffs Georgia Cano and David Wentworth. Despite their suit initially being thrown out based on statute of limitations issues, the plaintiffs managed to revive the case in August 2015.
Blue Sky Studios agreed to a settlement in the amount of $5.95 million, comparatively lower than the reported $13 million the Sony companies have agreed to pay. These differences could be due to a range of factors such as the number of employees at each studio, as well as Sony’s settlement representing two different companies: Sony Pictures Animation (SPA) and Sony Pictures Imageworks (SPI).
Despite no update of DreamWorks position on the suit, it would be beneficial for them to settle at this point too as settlement would provide a regulatory advantageous clean slate moving into the closing stages of their sale to Comcast.
It remains to be seen whether the other major studios named in the suit — including Disney, Pixar, Lucasfilm and the defunct Imagemovers Digital — will also offer monetary settlements, or fight the antitrust allegations in court.