'Jon & Kate': Is being followed by a camera 'work'?

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'Jon & Kate': Is being followed by a camera 'work'?

Wed Jun 10, 2009 @ 12:19PM PST

By Eriq Gardner

One danger we didn't explore involves wages and employment benefits. Does starring on a reality program constitute work so that labor laws apply?

In January, several U.S. TV networks settled a pair of class action lawsuits involving workers on shows like "American Idol," "Trading Spouses" and "The Bachelor" who had accused producers of "sweatshop conditions" and not paying overtime. But those cases dealt with workers such as story producers and editors — not the contestants who appear on the shows. What about them?

Some programs pay wage scales. Others don't. For years, lawyers have been wondering whether reality "actors" should get more compensation and now we're starting to see some legal action on this front.

In a decision in France last week, a court ruled that three contestants on the French version of "Temptation Island" were entitled to full employment contracts — including overtime, holidays, and even damages for wrongful dismissal after being eliminated from a contest that put them on an island with gorgeous members of the opposite sex.

Over at the Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment & Technology Law, Abbey Morrow sees some connection to an ongoing investigation by the Pennsylvania labor department involving the hit TLC show "Jon & Kate Plus 8."  Similar to a controversy in 2007 involving CBS' "Kid Nation," authorities are looking to determine whether the show violates child labor laws. 

Morrow asks whether being followed around with a camera should be classified as work. In other words, is there actual "labor" going on in the Jon & Kate Gosselin household?

It's a question that might require an investigation on a remote tropical island. Any volunteers?

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The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to [email protected]

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