Scribes hit producers' proposal to trim minimums

HOLLYWOOD — Hollywood’s writers, hitting a mostly unnoticed area following last week’s collapse of contract talks, have accused studios and nets of “gutting” minimums for script sales and resales into other media such as DVD.

In briefings this week to members in Los Angeles and Gotham, negotiators for the Writers Guild of America have mostly focused on the $102.4 million gap between the companies’ last offer and the WGA, and stressed that a deal can still be reached prior to the May 2 contract expiration.

But in a notice to members, the guild is also claiming the companies have issued rollback proposals in the contract’s “separation of rights,” which cover copyright provisions conveyed to writers rather than companies.

The WGA said the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers has proposed automatic acquisition of rights to publish scripts for free in most cases, including DVD release, and for a maximum $1,000 fee in others.

“These are extremely important creative and monetary rights gained in prior negotiations,” the WGA said.

Other AMPTP proposals in the “separated rights” areas call for lowering the minimum for film rights from the current 2.5% of budget to the minimum for a screenplay and reducing rights stemming from original TV material in areas like merchandising and promotion.

Some progress

Mona Mangan, exec director of the WGA East, said some progress had been achieved in “separated rights” during the six weeks of talks that ended March 1.

About 125 WGA East members attended Wednesday night’s briefing, with much of the discussion focused on residuals proposals. Key areas covered included the companies’ refusal to offer increases in basic cable, video and primetime network TV and their “double burst” plan for a 75% discount on reruns within 14 days.

Mangan said the tone of the meeting was calm and optimistic. “People close to the talks think there will be a deal because it would not be good business for there to be a strike when the two sides are not that far apart,” she added.

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