Actors Sue Commercial Casting Site Over ‘Pay for Play’ Policy

A group of actors filed a class action lawsuit Tuesday against Casting Networks, one of a handful of websites that connects actors to commercial auditions, alleging that the platform functions as an illegal pay-for-play system.

Casting Networks offers actors a free tier and two premium tiers. The paid options allow actors to upload more video to their profile and to submit for unlimited roles.

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The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleges that the site violates a 2009 California law that makes it illegal to charge for auditions.

The plaintiffs allege that the free tier allows users to upload only minimal data, and that users are effectively required to pay to access to full functionality of the site.

“Rather than level the playing field and inject transparency, these platforms have replicated traditional patterns of exploitation under the guise of technology and innovation,” the suit alleges.

SAG-AFTRA, the actors’ union, made an issue of pay-for-play casting sites during the strike in 2023. The union sought assurance from the major studios that they would not use casting platforms that required actors to pay to access auditions.

The negotiation largely centered on Actors Access, the dominant platform for casting in film and TV shows. Actors Access, like Casting Networks, has a free tier, and maintains that actors are not required to pay to submit for jobs.

Casting directors get free access to the platforms, and can search for candidates who fit the criteria for a particular role. SAG-AFTRA has argued that paid subscribers are sorted above those on the free tier. The 2023 contract includes a provision barring preferential treatment for paid subscribers, and requiring that sorting be done either randomly or in alphabetical order.

In the commercial realm, the major players are Casting Networks and Casting Frontier, both of which are owned by Talent Systems. The company did not respond to a request for comment.

The terms of service on Casting Networks include a mandatory arbitration provision and a class action waiver, which purports to bar subscribers from pursuing class action suits.

The lawsuit, brought by attorney Ryan Clarkson, also accuses Casting Networks of false advertising. The site advertises that users can “swap” media, uploading videos that are tailored to specific jobs. But according to the lawsuit, the site does not reveal that media has to remain on the site for 21 days once it’s uploaded, limiting the site’s functionality.

The suit also alleges that Casting Networks recently raised its prices.

“Rather than prioritize the discovery of new talent and facilitating the connection between actors and new roles, these entities focus on maximizing profit,” the suit alleges.

SAG-AFTRA is set to negotiate a new commercial contract in 2025, and the issue of paid sites may come up again at that point.

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