BACK STAGE WEST
March 18, 1999
Six-figure award is ordered from Breakdown bootlegger.
by Rob Kendt
Bringing to resolution a controversial case of stolen casting information, a U.S. District Court judge last week ordered Stephen Rodriguez to pay Breakdown Services, Ltd. $197,280 in "damages and profits," plus attorney's fees and court costs, for what Breakdown owner Gary Marsh alleged was a six-year conspiracy by Rodriguez and partners to steal his copyrighted casting information and sell it to actors.
The "breakdowns" distributed daily by Marsh's company represent some of the hottest, most under-wraps industry information anywhere. His firm is given scripts and other information by casting directors about available roles; from these sources, Marsh's staff of writers "breaks down" role descriptions, which Breakdown then distributes--copyright warnings duly attached--to a dedicated subscriber list of guild-franchised agents and legitimate personal managers who represent actors, who in turn use the breakdowns to submit and suggest their clients for roles.
The rub is that all of Breakdown's subscribers, who pay $168 a month for the service, sign a "confidentiality" agreement stipulating that the breakdowns are for their eyes only--not for their actor-clients. This privacy arrangement unintentionally creates a huge demand among both represented and unrepresented actors for this crucial daily casting information--and where there's a demand, there's a market.
That's where Stephen Rodriguez, a.k.a. Steve Duran, came in. In partnership with Dennis Bertsch, Rodriguez allegedly masterminded a conspiracy to steal the breakdowns--from agencies' doorsteps after delivery, through the Internet, or in concert with collaborating managers and agents willing to breach Breakdown's confidentiality agreement--and distribute them through a network of actors' groups, charging each $100 a month.
In his litigation, Marsh was unable to prove that Rodriguez's bootlegging of this copyrighted information represented unfair competition, as the court recognized "a fundamental difference between the markets each entity served... It appears that an informal market grew around the stolen breakdowns not because of the cheaper price, but because they provided information that unrepresented actors and actresses would not have been able to procure on their own." Marsh was, however, able to show that a small number of management companies were submitting from the bootlegged breakdowns rather than through his service--a loss to his business that the court calculated represented $58,680.
More significantly, the court ruled that Rodriguez's profits over the duration of the conspiracy represented "unjust enrichment," judging that the net worth of $515,344 he claimed on a loan application--not to mention a "lavish lifestyle, including a house in Pasadena and two BMWs"--was comprised almost entirely of profits from the bootlegged breakdown business. Accordingly, the judge calculated that $136,000 represented the likely gross income from his actors' group clients for a three-year period, and added that to the Breakdown award.
But the court refrained from levelling a permanent injunction against Rodriguez, noting that he "has made significant--and admirable--changes in his life... and is in his last year at Loyola Law School."
Dennis Bertsch declared bankruptcy while the case was going on. It should also be noted for the record that the Stephen Rodriguez named in the Breakdown case is no relation to another Steven Rodriguez, who works as a talent manager in the offices of McGowan Management.