Conglomerates not making new media payments to writers

Mumbai: The Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW) announced that the media conglomerates of the Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers – the AMPTP – have failed to comply with the contract negotiated to end the Guild’s 100-day strike and are not paying residuals for writers’ work that is reused on new media. The payment of residuals for new media reuse was a core issue of the WGA strike. The Guild is embarking on an aggressive contract enforcement program – including legal action – to ensure that the AMPTP companies make good on their obligations.

The WGAW filed for arbitration against the AMPTP over residuals – payments made for the reuse of writers’ works – for programs sold as electronic downloads, referred to as Electronic Sell-Through (EST). EST involves the sale of video content via the Internet and allows the purchaser to keep a copy of a program permanently on a computer hard drive or other device.

"Our agreement with the companies on material released to EST covers feature films produced after July 1, 1971, and television programs produced after 1977," said WGAW Board member and chair of the 2007 WGA Negotiating Committee John F. Bowman. "The companies have reneged on this agreement and are taking the position that only programs produced after 13 February, 2008 are covered by the new provision. This may be their deal with the DGA, but that was never our agreement. Every proposal we made during negotiations made clear our position that library product was covered, and the AMPTP never objected to that position. The Guild will not allow this to stand."

The Guild is also preparing to file for arbitration against the AMPTP companies for failing to pay residuals due for the streaming of television shows on the Internet. "Our tracking has shown that episodes are staying on websites longer than the 17-day initial window called for in the contract. This triggers the payment of a residual, but so far we’ve seen nothing," said WGAW executive director David Young. "Given the reports by the conglomerates of the growth of the number of shows being streamed and increases in new media revenues, this is an unacceptable situation."

"In light of the fact that writers are not being paid for new media reuse, it’s unconscionable that the AMPTP proclaims on its website, ‘By working under an expired contract, SAG members are not receiving the new media residuals that other Guild members are already collecting,’" said WGAW president Patric M. Verrone. "The companies know what is being streamed, and they regularly announce how successful they are in generating online advertising revenue, so there’s no reason for them not to honor the agreement they made with us."

In addition to taking legal action, the WGAW is undertaking a campaign of extensive member outreach and education on contract enforcement issues so that writers can help monitor the progress of enforcing the 2008 Minimum Basic Agreement.

The Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW) is a labor union representing writers of motion pictures, television, radio and Internet programming, including news and documentaries. Founded in 1933, the Guild negotiates and administers contracts that protect the creative and economic rights of its members. It is involved in a wide range of programs that advance the interests of writers, and is active in public policy and legislative matters on the local, national and international levels.