In Depth

WGA Files for Arbitration, Claims Producers Aren’t Paying New-Media Residuals

The Writers Guild of America is filing arbitration against the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers for allegedly failing to comply with the new contract negotiated out of the 100-day strike that shut down Hollywood during the winter of 2007-08, the WGA announced today.

At the heart of the dispute is new-media residuals, which was what originally sent the WGA to the picket lines in January. The WGA said members of the AMPTP have failed to pay residuals for programming sold through electronic downloads, such as through the Apple iTunes store, as well as streaming television shows on the Internet.

“Our agreement with the companies on material released to EST [electronic sell-through] covers feature films produced after July 1, 1971, and television programs produced after 1977,” said John F. Bowman, WGA West Board member and chair of the 2007 WGA Negotiating Committee. “The companies have reneged on this agreement and are taking the position that only programs produced after February 13, 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.”

As for online streaming, the guild said its tracking has shown episodes staying on Web sites longer than the residual-free 17-day window.

“This triggers the payment of a residual, but so far we’ve seen nothing,” said David Young, executive director of the WGA West. “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 re-use, it’s unconscionable that the AMPTP proclaims on its Web site, ‘By working under an expired contract, SAG members are not receiving the new-media residuals that other guild members are already collecting,’” WGAW President Patric M. Verrone said.

“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,” Mr. Verrone added.

The AMPTP could not be immediately reached for comment.