The Writer’s Guild Of America has been on strike since May, disrupting the development of many shows and films worldwide, including in the United Kingdom.
This week at the Trades Union Congress in Liverpool, the President of the Writers Guild of Great Britain (WGGB), Sandi Toksvig, has spoken out and urged streaming platforms like Disney+ and Netflix to stop the practice of “Buy-Out Agreements” and to go back to using residuals, to align with the WGA’s demands.
The former “Great British Bakeoff” host criticised Disney+, Netflix, Amazon and Apple TV+ for using these deals, which means writers are required to sign away their rights to IP and copyright, for an upfront fee, which means that the studios take a risk on a show or film becoming a big hit, but when it does, the writer’s aren’t rewarded for that success and prevents them from adapting their work in different mediums, whether as books, theatrical shows or audio content.
During the event, she proposed a motion to the Trades Union Congress that they support its efforts to return to residuals and an end to buy-outs.
The statement from Sandi Toksvig said:
Congress recognises the global success of subscription video on demand (SVOD) providers such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+, Apple TV+ and subscription audio on demand providers such as Audible. These companies have hundreds of millions of subscribers globally, generating tens of billions of pounds.
However, the writers who create the stories which appear on these platforms are not being adequately remunerated for their work.
SVOD providers regularly engage writers on ‘buy-out’ agreements requiring them to sign away all intellectual property and copyright to their work. Meaning they do not receive any additional remuneration, even if their shows become international hits, and they cannot use their work to create theatre shows, books or audio content based on their creations. This differs from the long-standing collectively bargained agreements the WGGB has in TV, film, audio and theatre, which all contain royalty payments.
Many writers rely on royalty payments to keep afloat when they are not working. The increased use of non-collectively bargained buy-out agreements risks writing becoming a profession for only those who can afford it. As a result, the writing profession, and stories that are told will become less diverse
Congress recognises the valuable contribution writers make to the UK economy and cultural and creative sector.
Congress agrees to support the WGGB’s collective bargaining efforts, campaign for fairer pay for writers working for streaming providers and end buy-out agreements.
Congress also notes the recent Writers Guild of America strike against streamers, studios and producers, and sends our solidarity to these workers.
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