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Harvey Weinstein

UK performing arts and entertainment trade union Equity has published guidance to combat what it describes as “unnecessary, bullying and over-reaching” non-disclosure agreements (NDAs).

NDAs are a legal tool, often used by film companies to protect copyright and prevent leaks about forthcoming projects.

However, they have become an increasing cause of concern in recent years as a way of silencing victims of assault or bullying. Disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein was found to have used them against women he had attacked.

Many actors and agents have become concerned that NDAs are being over-used in the casting and auditions process, with performers being pressured into accepting sweeping and unreasonable terms.

Equity has called on the industry to stop obliging performers to sign an NDA as a pre-condition of their being auditioned or cast.

It says there are instances where the wording within agreements wrongly suggests that a performer’s ability to report bullying, harassment and inappropriate behaviour is restricted.

In its guidance, Equity says that an NDA cannot stop anyone from disclosing information to professional advisors, such as a trade union, agent, legal or tax advisors, and medical professionals, who are bound by a duty of confidentiality.

The union also stresses that an NDA cannot be used to prevent the reporting of a crime and that NDAs are also being used to sign away performers’ intellectual property rights. 

Equity said poor practice can be reported to its assistant general secretary (recorded media) John Barclay. “At a time when the industry must work to eradicate bullying, harassment and inappropriate behaviour, performers are being gagged by the growing use of NDAs containing provisions that are far too over-reaching,” said Barclay. 

The Personal Managers’ Association (PMA), the Casting Directors’ Guild (CDG) and the Co-operative Personal Management Association (CPMA) all issued statements in support of Equity’s new guidance.

Bill Petrie, co-chair of the artists’ sector at the PMA, said: “At a time when the industry is focused on eradicating harassment and abuse, Equity’s stand against unreasonable NDAs – which serve to bully and isolate performers – is a necessary and timely stand.”

The CDG said: “We support our colleagues at Equity in their fight to end bad practice over NDAs, whilst acknowledging that the NDA is an agreement between the production company and the actor.”

The CPMA said: “The CPMA welcomes Equity’s stand against NDAs, which are rife in our industry, frequently inappropriate, unnecessary and sometimes illegal. They must be brought under control.”