Unpaid 'Black Swan' Interns Get Court Victory

A judge rules that film studio interns should have been paid for the work that they did.

(Matt Sayles/AP)

A judge rules that film studio interns should have been paid for the work that they did.

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Still, there are several reasons why young workers shouldn't expect the advent of a new, all-paid-internships age. One is that Fox Searchlight has vowed to seek an appeal.

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"We are very disappointed with the court's rulings. We believe they are erroneous, and will seek to have them reversed," said a Fox Searchlight spokesman in a statement. 

In addition, the Labor Department's six unpaid internship criteria only apply to for-profit firms. Nonprofits, for example, can ask volunteers to do unpaid work as public service, Turner says. 

O'Donnell adds that each case is determined on its own merits; that is, the Searchlight decision applies to the Searchlight case only. Recent unpaid internship lawsuits have had mixed measures of success. In May, for example, another judge stopped an intern lawsuit against Hearst Magazines from proceeding as a class action suit. Another suit, between unpaid interns and "The Charlie Rose Show," was settled out of court in December 2012.

"All of these cases are going to be factually specific," O'Donnell says. "The court's ruling is always going to depend on the facts of any particular case. This ruling does not for example mean that every for-profit internship is suddenly invalid."

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  • Corrected 06/13/13: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the class action lawsuit against Hearst was thrown out. The case is ongoing.