The Office - photo by flickr user Nick Chapman

The Office – photo by flickr user Nick Chapman

In 2013, unpaid interns everywhere won a major victory when Judge William H. Pauley III of the Federal District Court in Manhattan ruled that plaintiffs who had worked without compensation on the Fox Searchlight movie Black Swan should have been classified as employees. The ruling resulted in a slew of lawsuits leveled by other unpaid interns, many settled out of court for large sums. This month, that decision was vacated by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which argued that the proper way to determine a worker’s status is to apply a “primary beneficiary test,” in which the worker can be considered an employee only if the employer benefits more from the relationship than the intern. Crucially, the decision also states that an internship can be legal even if it doesn’t meet the traditional six-factor checklist set in place in 1947, especially if it is tied to the receipt of school credit and helps the student fulfill academic commitments. As a result, a number of commentators have expressed concern that the decision encourages employers to  continue to exploit interns under the guise of education

The Beginning of the End of the No Child Left Behind Era: Speaking of education, thirteen years after the Bush Administration passed the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB)–ushering in an age of highly criticized, high-stakes standardized testing–the Senate voted 81 to 17 to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The Senate bill, nicknamed “Every Child Achieves Act,” includes many welcome provisions, including doing away with the adequate yearly progress (read: serious standardized testing) mandate of NCLB. Earlier this month, the House of Representatives passed its own reauthorization, the Student Success Act, with no support from Democrats and under the threat of a White House veto. The House and Senate will now begin working on a final bill for approval. What that might ultimately look like, and when it might come to pass, is anyone’s guess. To start, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has stated that the Senate’s bill falls short, and there is still much work to be done.

Film Tax Credits Get the Axe: Last year, we reported on the growing disenchantment in some states with film tax credit programs due to their questionable track record of impact on employment and economic prosperity, at least when it comes to big Hollywood studio productions. This month, two more states decided such incentives were no longer worth it: Governor Bill Walker repealed Alaska’s film tax credit in its entirety, and Governor Rick Snyder signed legislation ending Michigan’s program (though he did keep the Film Office, for the time being.) More unsettling to the film industry was Louisiana’s capping of its film tax credit program at $180 million, with an additional stipulation that limits credits per film to $30 million. This new limit is almost $100 million less than what the state has spent on credits annually in the last few years. Louisiana’s move is notable, as it has long been one of the most important places to film outside of California. The film industry is working on proposed reforms to the legislation, but the clear trend for the time being is towards greater consolidation back in Hollywood’s home state.

Hard Times for the Arts in Britain: The UK saw some serious threats to its cultural climate this month. UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne announced that, in order to make the government’s goal of £20 billion in savings, it would “prioritize spending that achieves the best economic returns.” In literal terms, this means that “unprotected” departments (that’s everything other than health, schools, defense and foreign aid) would face significant budget cuts. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport will face the most significant of cuts: 40%. This will be the third time Arts Council England has suffered a significant budget reduction since 2010, and the impact will be felt throughout the country: on the local level, councils are looking at forecasted cuts averaging 12%, and many will be forced to reconsider their arts budgets. Meanwhile, facing financial pressure of a different sort, the BBC announced this month that it will cut 1,000 jobs as it struggles to close a $294 million budget gap projected for the coming fiscal year. The gap is only expected to widen as more individuals move from TV to the internet, costing the BBC its network licensing fees, which account for more than 70% of its revenues. The government has appointed a committee to review the BBC’s Royal Charter, which expires in 2016.

SESAC Buys the Harry Fox Agency: After a year more than a year of exploration and discussion, SESAC, one of the three performing rights societies operating in the US, has finalized a bid to buy the Harry Fox Agency, the US’s primary collecting agency for mechanical rights. SESAC collects royalties whenever a song in its catalog is played on the radio, streamed online or otherwise played in real time. The Harry Fox Agency, currently under the aegis of the National Music Publishing Association, handles the mechanical licenses that record companies need to sell CDs and downloads (which was, in the heyday of record sales, quite lucrative.) The acquisition gives SESAC the ability to issue both licenses, thus handling digital rights more efficiently. It also, according to the New York Times, will give SESAC “control of the valuable data that is generated from digital outlets like Apple, Spotify and Pandora, giving it an advantage over ASCAP and BMI, its much bigger rivals in the American performing-rights business.” The question on everyone’s mind: what’s next for ASCAP and BMI now that SESAC is stepping up its game? And perhaps more importantly, what’s next for the creators of all this music?


Lots of activity this month!

  • Clifford Murphy has been named the National Endowment for the Arts’ new director of folk and traditional arts.
  • The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation announced two new appointments this month: Ella Baff, until recently the executive and artistic director of Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, was hired to a new position of senior program officer in the Arts and Cultural Heritage program, and Karen Brooks Hopkins, former president of the Brooklyn Academy of Music, was named Senior Fellow in Residence.
  • Erik Takeshita, currently Director of Creative Placemaking for the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, will join the Bush Foundation as its new portfolio director for Community Creativity.
  • After 23 years with the Henry Luce Foundation, Ellen Holtzman will retire from her position as program director for American art in September. She is to be succeeded by Teresa A. Carbone.
  • Ruby Lerner, founder and executive director of Creative Capital, has announced she will step down at the end of 2015 after seventeen years.
  • Colleen McDonough has been promoted to executive director of the ASCAP Foundation. She succeeds Karen Sherry, who retired after seventeen years in this role.
  • The George Gund Foundation named Jennifer Coleman its new Senior Program Officer for the Arts, replacing the retiring Deena Epstein.
  • Allyson Esposito has been appointed Director of Arts & Culture at the Boston Foundation.
  • Jessica Booth was appointed Georgia Department of Education’s first-ever fine arts specialist.
  • Dr. Sanjay Kabir Bavikatte has been named executive director of the Christensen Fund.
  • Sarah Martínez-Helfman was appointed new president of the Samuel S. Fels Fund.
  • Diana Aviv is stepping down as CEO of Independent Sector to become CEO at Feeding America.
  • The David and Lura Lovell Foundation seeks an Executive Director. Posted July 31; no closing date.
  • The Nonprofit Finance Fund is hiring for ten positions, including positions in business development, financial services, marketing and more.
  • Philanthropy New York is hiring a Director of Learning Services. Posted July 15; no closing date.
  • Vilcek Foundation seeks a Program Officer. Posted July 23; no closing date.
  • Crown Family Philanthropies seeks a Program Analyst. Posted July 6; no closing date.