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1930s & Earlier / Coogan Law
After co-starring in Charlie Chaplin's film The Kid (1921), Jackie Coogan was one of America's first major child stars. Unfortunately, because there was no precedent for a child actor earning thousands of dollars, there were no laws to protect Coogan's financial interests. At the time, minors had absolutely no legal claims to their earnings--every penny belonged to one's parents. Coogan found this out the hard way, when, at age 21 in 1935, he discovered his earnings were almost all gone. Coogan was then put in the awkward position of having to sue his mother and his former agent to recover a small portion of wht he had earned. In response, Congress passed the Coogan Law to protect future child actors' earnings. Unfortunately, the original law contained too many loopholes, renedering it virtually ineffective. Revised versions over the years have been far more effective in protecting the earnings of minors.