The members of the Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW) and Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE) put their final stamp of approval Wednesday on the deal that ended their 14-week strike, giving writers new rights and protections for work distributed on and created for the Internet and other new media platforms.
An overwhelming majority of the WGA membership voted in favor of ratifying the three-year contract by 93.6 percent of 4,060 votes cast in Los Angeles and New York. The term of the agreement is from February 13, 2008 through May 1, 2011.
"This contract is a new beginning for writers in the Digital Age," said Patric M. Verrone, president of the WGAW. "It ensures that Guild members will be fairly compensated for the content they create for the Internet, and it also covers the reuse on new media platforms of the work they have done in film since 1971 and in TV since 1977. That's a huge body of work that will continue to generate revenue for our members for many years to come as it is distributed electronically."
"The 2008 Minimum Basic Agreement is groundbreaking on many levels," said Michael Winship, president of the WGAE. "Not only does it establish Writers Guild jurisdiction in new media, it gives writers the same separated rights provisions in new media enjoyed by the creators of original TV and motion picture scripts, as well as residuals for the reuse of movies and television programs on the Internet and in new media. Those residuals will be based on 'distributor's gross' - real money for our members - that we'll be able to audit and monitor more effectively than ever before."
The contract breaks new ground for writers by:
Establishing WGA jurisdiction over writing for new media;
Gives writers "separated rights" in new media content (separated rights are the contractual rights traditionally enjoyed by writers of original television and motion picture scripts);
Establishing residual payments for new media reuse of covered material, including Internet downloads and ad-supported streaming of feature films and television programs;
Establishing "distributor's gross" as the basis for calculating new media residual payments and
Creating meaningful access to information and auditing tools that will allow the WGA to monitor the development of new media markets.
The balloting was conducted by mail ballots and walk-in voting at membership meetings in Los Angeles and New York City. Ratification follows the WGA's lifting of a strike order on February 13, which ended a 100-day work stoppage.