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Waisbren v. Peppercorn Prods., Inc. - 41 Cal. App. 4th 246, 48 Cal. Rptr. 2d 437 (1995)


The Talent Agencies Act provides that no person shall engage in or carry on the occupation of a talent agency without first procuring a license therefor from the labor commissioner. Cal. Lab. Code §1700.5. A talent agency is a person or corporation who engages in the occupation of procuring, offering, promising, or attempting to procure employment or engagements for an artist or artists. Cal. Lab. Code § 1700.4, subd. (a)


In 1982, plaintiff Brad Waisbren agreed to promote Peppercorn, a California company specializing in the design and creation of puppets for use in the entertainment industry and advertising media. From 1982 through 1988, he performed numerous services for the company pursuant to an oral agreement. Among other things, Waisbren assisted in project development, managed certain business affairs, supervised client relations and publicity, performed casting duties, advised Peppercorn regarding the selection of artistic talent, coordinated production, and handled office functions, such as the hiring and firing of personnel. Occasionally, Waisbren procured employment for Peppercorn, but his efforts in that regard were incidental to his other responsibilities. For his services, Waisbren was to receive 15 percent of Peppercorn's profits. In 1988, Peppercorn terminated its relationship with Waisbren. In 1990, he filed suit against defendants seeking damages for breach of a representation agreement between the parties, alleging that they had not paid him in accordance with the parties' agreement. The trial court ruled that the parties' agreement was void because Waisbren had performed the duties of a talent agent by procuring employment for Peppercorn without first obtaining the necessary license. Waisbren admitted that he had no such license, but contended that a license was unnecessary because his procurement activities were minimal and merely incidental to his other responsibilities. Waisbren appealed.


Was Waisbren required to obtain a license?




The court found that Waisbren was not exempt from the licensing requirement, which applied equally to both full-time and part-time talent agents. Because he lacked a license, there were no grounds upon which to enforce a representation agreement that had been breached by the parties. Therefore, the court affirmed the judgment of the trial court, ruling that the representation agreement between the parties was illegal and unenforceable.

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