2007 Addendum to “Understanding Separated Rights”

I. Introduction

In 2000, the Writers Guild of America West published “Understanding Separated Rights” as a guide to the Separated Rights provisions of the Writers Guild of America Theatrical and Television Basic Agreement (“MBA”).1

Since 2000, there have been a few changes to the Separated Rights provisions of the MBA. This addendum is a supplement to “Understanding Separated Rights” and provides more up-to-date information. 

II. Writing Teams for both Television and Theatrical

Prior to May of 2001, the MBA did not permit more than two writers to work together as a writing team unless the Guild granted a waiver.

Since May of 2001, the MBA allows for three writers to work together as a writing team without requiring a waiver.

Currently, the MBA does not permit more than three writers to work together as a writing team unless the Guild grants a waiver. Requests for a waiver should come from the writing team and directed to the Guild's Contracts Department at 323-782-4501 (telephone) or (323) 782-4707 (fax).

The compensation for a team of three writers when all three writers are employed pursuant to Article 14. of the MBA is 150% of the applicable minimum, including the “upset price” in Article 16.B.5.

The compensation for all other teams of three writers is 200% of the applicable minimum, including the “upset price” in Article 16.B.5.

III. Theatrical Separated Rights - Dramatic Stage Rights
Article 16.A.3.b.

The provision, as modified as of May of 2001, gives the Company additional time to exploit the dramatic stage rights. For literary material covered by the 1998 and earlier MBAs, the writer had the right to produce a stage version of the literary material two years after general release of the motion picture, as long as the Company did not exploit the dramatic stage rights within that two-year period. 

As of May 2, 2001, the Company has three years after the general release of the motion picture to commence exploitation of the dramatic stage rights.  If the Company commences exploitation of the dramatic stage rights within that three-year period, then it has an additional two years (i.e., five years from general release) to stage a bona fide dramatic production. 

IV. Theatrical Separated Rights - Reacquisition
Article 16.A.8.d.(1)(a)

In instances where the original writing service or purchase agreement is dated prior to May 2, 2001, writers eligible to reacquire their literary material have a two-year window, immediately following the five (5) year period in which a Company may actively develop the literary material, within which the writer may give a Company notice of his intent to reacquire the literary material. (Article 16.A.8.d.(1)(a))

In instances where the original writing service or purchase agreement is dated on or after May 2, 2001, writers eligible to reacquire their literary material have a five-year window, immediately following the five (5) year period in which a Company may actively develop the literary material, in which to initiate (or trigger) a two-year window within which the writer may give a Company notice of his intent to reacquire the literary material.

The provision, as modified as of May of 2001, gives writers a larger window (five years) in which to initiate the reacquisition process. The actual window in which a writer may reacquire remains the same (two years).

For example, assuming a writer's employment agreement is dated on or after May 2, 2001 and she last delivered literary material in August of 2002, she can give the Company notice of her intent to reacquire as soon as August of 2007 or wait until August of 2012. Once she (or the Guild on her behalf) gives the Company notice, then she can only continue the process for a maximum of two years.

V. Theatrical Separated Rights - Reacquisition of Rewrites
Article 16.A.8.e.

In instances where the original option or option/purchase agreement is dated on or after May 2, 2001, writers eligible to reacquire their literary material have a five-year window, immediately following one year after the expiration of the option, in which to initiate (or trigger) a two-year window within which the writer may give a Company notice of his intent to reacquire revisions of the literary material.

This provision did not exist prior to May of 2001, and is not retroactive. This is an opportunity for a writer to get back revisions, which a Company owns, to a script that the writer owns.

VI. Publication Fee
Article 16.A.10.

The publication fee is found in Article 16. of the MBA, but a writer does not need to have Separated Rights to be entitled to this payment.  A one-time fee of $5,000 must be paid in the aggregate to the credited writer(s) of a theatrical motion picture as compensation for the right to publish the screenplay on videodiscs/videocassettes; the compensation is due regardless of whether the screenplay is actually published. The compensation is paid through the Guild's Residuals Department, which can be reached at 323-782-4700.

VII. Television Separated Rights - Exclusive Series Sequel Rights
Article 16.B.2.a.(2)

To clarify the meaning in the second sentence of the first paragraph on Page 27, the sentence should read:

In addition, if the original MOW or pilot is broadcast within thirty (30) months after delivery of the original material, the Company's exclusive right to produce a series extends to three years from the date of broadcast.

VIII. Television Separated Rights - Holdback Periods
16.B.3.b.

The Company and the writer may negotiate for the Company to acquire some or all of a writer's reserved rights pursuant to either Article 16.B.3.d., 16.B.3.e. or 16.B.5. If a writer does not sell her reserved rights and retains them to exploit herself, there still are applicable holdback periods that must elapse before a writer can exploit particular reserved rights.  A writer who is considering selling or exploiting any of their reserved rights should contact the Guild's Contracts Department at 323-782-4501 for further explanation.


1 “Understanding Separated Rights” and this addendum were never intended to be and are not a substitute for the MBA.

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