Do writers get paid for Web content? | EW.com

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Do writers get paid for Web content?

What’s wigging out Hollywood lately is this thing called the World Wide Web… maybe you’ve heard of it? The Web has studios afraid that they’re going to lose control of their product, while writers fear they’re going to be shut out of some major money. That’s why the Writer’s Guild of America dropped the issue of DVD residuals from their contract talks on Nov. 4 — so they could focus their energies on getting a deal out of the Web. Since then, there’s been a lot of rancor over who is getting what now. Writers insist they are getting zilch when it comes to new media content; the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers responded with an ad in the trades this week to “set the record straight.”

So, do writers get paid for new media or not?    

Oh, how we wish there were an easy answer. But here’s what we do
know: Programs made for new media aren’t currently covered under the writers’ main contract as
work exclusive to WGA, but there is a new media addendum (called a sideletter, among entertainment wags) in place — and Hollywood Insider acquired a copy. That sideletter allows non-union writers to pen
Web material for networks. It enables the WGA writers to make
independent deals with the networks to write material for the Internet.
What do they get paid? The nets are gun shy about sharing info on the
rates for competitive reasons, but the point is, those who seek out
personal contracts get paid; those who don’t, well, don’t. 

To get down to specifics, writers currently get 1.2
percent of the license fee paid by distributors of pay-per-view downloads of TV shows and
films (downloads only available for a fixed time or a limited number of viewings); for permanent downloads (from, say, iTunes) writers are paid at the same rate they receive for home video, which is approximately 4 to 7 cents per film, and less than that for TV shows. Then there are writers for shows like Lost who have made exclusive deals (with the help of the WGA) to get a percentage on things like mobisodes. (As of April 2006, Lost
writers are entitled
to a minimum of $800 for a two-minute-or-less mobisode, plus
1.2 percent of the license fee on mobisodes, and 2 percent, if it’s ad
supported.) Before negotiations came to a halt on Nov. 4, it was
rumored that the producers offered an addition 1.2 percent for
streaming video.

If your eyes are glazed over about now, we empathize. The pay
structure of Internet use is in its infancy, and with so many add-ons,
the contract talks sound like a riddle that never ends — which is exactly why
both parties need to get back to the negotiating table and hash this
thing out.

Oh, how we wish there were an easy answer. But here’s what we doknow: Programs made for new media aren’t currently covered under the writers’ main contract aswork exclusive to WGA, but there is a new media addendum (called a sideletter, among entertainment wags) in place — and Hollywood Insider acquired a copy. That sideletter allows non-union writers to penWeb material for networks. It enables the WGA writers to makeindependent deals with the networks to write material for the Internet.What do they get paid? The nets are gun shy about sharing info on therates for competitive reasons, but the point is, those who seek outpersonal contracts get paid; those who don’t, well, don’t. 

To get down to specifics, writers currently get 1.2percent of the license fee paid by distributors of pay-per-view downloads of TV shows andfilms (downloads only available for a fixed time or a limited number of viewings); for permanent downloads (from, say, iTunes) writers are paid at the same rate they receive for home video, which is approximately 4 to 7 cents per film, and less than that for TV shows. Then there are writers for shows like Lost who have made exclusive deals (with the help of the WGA) to get a percentage on things like mobisodes. (As of April 2006, Lostwriters are entitled to a minimum of $800 for a two-minute-or-less mobisode, plus1.2 percent of the license fee on mobisodes, and 2 percent, if it’s adsupported.) Before negotiations came to a halt on Nov. 4, it wasrumored that the producers offered an addition 1.2 percent forstreaming video.

If your eyes are glazed over about now, we empathize. The paystructure of Internet use is in its infancy, and with so many add-ons,the contract talks sound like a riddle that never ends — which is exactly whyboth parties need to get back to the negotiating table and hash thisthing out.