WGA’s silent treatment

Guild's contract proposal met with skepticism

When the Writers Guild of America West introduced their supplemental Internet contract in June, Hollywood hardly reacted.

The contract attempts to govern program materials written by WGA members intended for the Internet, but not all Netcasters agree this is the right time for the guild to try and regulate cyberspace.

“The contract is a complicating factor in a situation that’s already complicated enough,” says one online producer. “It slows down the process of dealmaking.”

Regardless of how the contract is perceived, it is another undeniable sign that traditional and new media are merging, but not without a few kinks.

The Directors Guild of America began offering its own picture-by-picture Internet agreement in April. The Motion Picture Screen Cartoonist Local 839, part of the Intl. Alliance of Theatrical & Stage Employees, bowed their online agreement in July. And during its strike, the Screen Actors Guild demanded Internet jurisdiction from advertisers.

Similarly, the WGA is positioning itself to ensure that if online producers choose to use its talent, it will be done under guild jurisdiction.

The Internet contract states that WGA members are forbidden to work for online producers who are not signatory to the Minimum Basic Agreement (MBA).

The most important difference between the 1998 MBA and the new Internet contract is that compensation for materials written for the Web is completely negotiable.

However, because the ’98 MBA was a result of collective bargaining, and the Internet contract was unilaterally promulgated without any negotiation from producers, companies are not legally required to comply with the Internet contract, even if they are signatory to the 1998 MBA.

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