U.K. Performers’ Union Equity Fights Back Against NDA Overreach

U.K. performers’ union Equity is fighting back against the increasing use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) in the entertainment industry.

NDAs are intended to prevent a participant or prospective participant on a project from leaking details but there is growing concern in the industry about the extent to which they are used. Actors including Gal Gadot, Zendaya and Sophia Di Martino have said they had no idea what project they were even auditioning for when they went up for their roles in “Wonder Woman,” “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and “Loki” respectively due to the secrecy around them.

NDAs have also been used in more sinister circumstances to gag victims of harassment and abuse from speaking out about their experiences. Most famously Harvey Weinstein frequently resorted to NDAs to cover up his behavior.

Now, Equity has launched guidance to combat what they term as the “growing use of unnecessary, bullying and over-reaching NDAs across the audio-visual industry.”

The guidance sets out what would be considered a reasonable use of an NDA for its members – and what wouldn’t. Among Equity’s demands are ending the practice of asking performers to sign NDAs as part of the audition process, ensuring that NDAs do not prevent signatories from reporting bullying, harassment and inappropriate behavior, and confirming that NDAs are not being interwoven with assignment of intellectual property rights.

The union’s guidance also clarifies that NDAs do not prevent signatories from consulting professional advisors – including their agents, lawyers, tax advisors, medical professionals and unions – and they cannot be used to prevent a crime from being reported.

Equity is also encouraging its members to use the guidance to push back against “unreasonable” contracts as well as report them to the organization’s assistant general secretary for 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. “So, Equity is now for the first time issuing guidance to performers to ensure they have the knowledge and support to reject NDAs that are downright bad. One major fear for performers is that if they sign an NDA, they then cannot discuss it or what happens at work.”

“But Equity’s position is clear: an NDA should never prevent a performer from disclosing information about the agreement to their professional advisors, such as their union, agent, legal or tax advisors, medical professionals, and indeed law enforcement. Equity’s guidance has been welcomed by other stakeholders within the industry and we hope that performers will feel empowered to challenge inappropriate NDAs – enabling us all to make our audio-visual industry the best and safest in the world.” 

Check out the full guidance, titled “Use and Misuse of Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) in the UK Film, Television and Games Industries,” here.

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