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Apple Signs Writers Guild of America Contract on Programming

Apple has agreed to the terms and conditions of the Writers Guild of America’s current master contract — a development that the WGA says will have major implications at the next round of contract talks.

The WGA West revealed the development to members in a message sent Thursday by WGA West president David A. Goodman and executive director David Young.

The duo also said Apple has agreed to terms that are above the minimum basic agreement if its programming is offered free to consumers online — which will ensure that writers employed by Apple will be covered on issues such as script fees, weekly payments, and residuals for any show that airs free to the consumer.

“These deal terms are significant,” Goodman and Young said. “First, the current MBA does not contain minimums or residuals for projects on free-to-consumer services (think Crackle). Terms have to be negotiated on a writer by writer basis. Except, now, at Apple.”

The pair also said that the development is particularly important in advance of the upcoming negotiations with companies for a successor deal. The current contract — which was hammered out less than an hour before expiration last year — will expire on May 1, 2020. The WGA reps more than 14,000 members.

“Second, while almost all Guild-covered Internet programming has thus far been under a subscription (consumer pay) model — like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu — Facebook has already launched shows on their  free-to-consumer service,” Goodman and Young said. “As this market develops, it will be imperative to negotiate MBA protections for writers creating content for such services. Our Apple deal moves us in that direction while the 2020 negotiations are still two years away.”

The duo also said that the work is covered only if it’s performed for the new signatory company, Apple Development LLC.

The WGA went on strike for 100 days in late 2007 and early 2008 over issues that included coverage of work distributed over the internet. Apple has recently ordered comedy series starring Hailee Steinfeld as poet Emily Dickinson and a comedy series starring Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston set in the world of morning talk shows.

Read the entire message from Goodman and Young below.

Dear Members,

We are happy to inform you that earlier this week Apple became a full signatory to the 2017 WGA MBA.

In addition, Apple has agreed to better-than-MBA terms if its programming is offered free to consumers online.  This means that writers employed by the new signatory, Apple Development LLC, will have MBA terms like script fees, weeklies and residuals for any show that airs free to the consumer.

These deal terms are significant.  First, the current MBA does not contain minimums or residuals for projects on free-to-consumer services (think Crackle).  Terms have to be negotiated on a writer by writer basis. Except, now, at Apple.

Second, while almost all Guild-covered Internet programming has thus far been under a subscription (consumer pay) model — like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu — Facebook has  already launched shows on their  free-to-consumer service. As this market develops, it will be imperative to negotiate MBA protections for writers creating content for such services. Our Apple deal moves us in that direction while the 2020 negotiations are still two years away.

It is important to point out that currently these MBA-plus terms apply only to writers working directly for the Apple signatory. The Guild is looking to assist members who are developing shows with other producers for Apple, Facebook, Crackle or other free-to-consumer platforms, in order to negotiate appropriate contract terms. Please call the Guild’s Contracts Department at 323-782-4501 so we may be aware of your project and your contract details.

In Solidarity,

David A. Goodman, President
David Young, Executive Director

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