Scribes support Oz trade proposal

U.S., U.K. writers' guilds back cultural exemption

This article was updated on October 14, 2003.

SYDNEY — The U.S. and U.K. writers’ guilds are backing Australia’s campaign to exempt cultural industries from the U.S.-Australia free trade agreement now being negotiated.

Their support splits from the Motion Picture Assn. of America line urging the U.S. government to press for a standstill agreement barring the Aussie government from introducing local content regs for digitally distributed product.

The guilds adopted a resolution last Friday during a meeting of the Intl. Affiliation of Writers’ Guilds in Toronto, Canada, which said the IAWG “unequivocally supports the right of all Australian governments to legislate in respect of film, television, radio, theater and new media industries across all existing delivery platforms and those which may exist in the future.”

The resolution was proposed by the WGA West and seconded by the WGA East.

“We consider this to be a substantial win for Australian writers and the Australian industry,” said Megan Elliott, exec director of the Australian Writers Guild, who attended the meeting.

“The president of the Canadian Coalition of Cultural Diversity is taking the resolution to the international actors guilds meeting in Los Angeles this week to seek their support.”

The IAWG also reps guilds from Canada, Ireland and New Zealand.

Elliot is writing to the Oz government to demand the trade pact with the U.S. exclude “transfer of rights” or “work for hire” provisions for writers — measures that she says the MPAA backs.

“The MPAA wants to change our copyright system so it is more like that in the U.S.,” she said. “It would mean U.S. writers would no longer get levies from Australia.”

The Australian Screen Directors Assn. is asking the DGA to support Australia’s position.

U.S. and Aussie negotiators are meeting in Canberra later this month to thrash out a deal by the end of this year.

ASDA exec director Richard Harris said he’s assured after meeting with the Oz negotiators last week that the government will stick to its commitment to reserve the right to regulate in cultural matters and not cave in to U.S. demands.

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