I. WORKING PROCEDURES
A. Writer’s Responsibility When Assigned
B. Collaboration: A Team of Writers
C. Writing Independently of Prior Scripts
II. CREDIT DETERMINATION PROCEDURE
A. Notice of Tentative Writing Credit
B. What To Do Upon Receipt of Notice
C. Agreement Among Writers
III. GUILD POLICY ON CREDITS
B. Rules for Determining Credit
C. Production Executives
E. Separation of Rights
F. Withdrawal From Credit
G. Guild’s Right to Protest
H. Order of Names
J. Written Material Prevails
K. Revision of Script After Final Credit Determination
L. Publicizing of Credits
A writer’s position in the motion picture or television industry is determined
largely by his/her credits. His/her professional status depends on
the quality and number of the screenplays, teleplays, or stories which
bear his/her name. Writing credit is given for the act of creation in writing
for the screen. This includes the creation of plot, characters, dialogue,
scenes and the other elements which comprise a teleplay.
The administration of an accurate and equitable system of determining
credits is, therefore, one of the most important services the Guild
performs for writers, and it is to a better understanding of this important
responsibility that this Manual is dedicated.
The Guild is asked numerous times a year to assist in the resolution of
controversies between writers over their credits. Arduous and unpleasant
as this chore sometimes is, the Guild undertakes it willingly, not
only to protect writers from embarrassing personal conflicts but also to
ensure the validity of credit records on which the professional status of
The guiding principle of this system of credit determination is that the
writing credits should be a true and accurate statement of authorship as
determined by the rules of this Manual. Fortunately, the written material
provides a definite basis for credit determination, and the willingness of
experienced writers to read this material carefully and weigh the contributions
of the participants ensures a fair and impartial decision arrived at
by qualified persons.
The importance of credits demands that writers give the process for
determining credits the closest scrutiny. The rules and procedures set
down here are based on:
1. the Guild’s contractual obligations under the Theatrical and Television
Basic Agreement (“MBA”); and
2. the Guild’s own rules and regulations adopted by the membership,
which are put into practice by writers.
For practical tips to help you protect your interests in an arbitration,
please refer to the Credits Survival Guide, which you can access at the
Guild’s websites, www.wgaw.org or www.wgaeast.org.
Back to Contents
I. WORKING PROCEDURES
A. WRITER’S RESPONSIBILITY WHEN ASSIGNED
1. Notify other writers on the same assignment.
The Company is obligated, under the MBA, to notify a writer of all writers
currently or previously employed by the Company on the same material.
On a television motion picture ninety (90) minutes or longer, the
Company is required to notify all participating writers in writing of the
name(s) of any subsequent writers. Such notice(s) shall be issued within
a reasonable time after employment of each subsequent writer.
The writer’s responsibility begins at the moment the writer starts an
assignment. Guild Working Rule 12 requires that the writer ascertain
from the proper authorities in the production company the names of
any other writers currently assigned to the same material. The writer also
must notify any of such other writers of the fact that the writer has been
assigned to the material.
2. File contract at Guild office.
Each member must promptly file with the Guild office a copy of his/her
contract of employment, in no case later than one week after receipt of
3. Keep a copy of all work done.
For fair credit determination it is vital that the writer keep copies of all
work done. To be considered in a credit arbitration, literary material must
have been submitted by the writer to the Company upon completion of
the work or upon purchase. All material should be properly dated and
labeled. Copies of story or script suggestions constituting literary material
should be kept and must also have been submitted to the Company
in writing if the writer wants to claim credit for these contributions. A
dated memorandum to the Company can place these suggestions on
the record. Literary material submitted to the Company includes submission
to individuals authorized by the Company to accept such materials.
B. COLLABORATION: A TEAM OF WRITERS
A “team” of writers is defined as follows: Two writers who have been
assigned at about the same time to the same material and who work
together for approximately the same length of time on the material.
The Guild does and must presume that when two writers comply with
the definition of a team and their names appear jointly on the work that
is produced, the whole will be judged as a joint contribution unless a
specific objection to this assumption is made at the time of the writing.
Such objections should be made in writing to the staff of the Television
Credits Department and concurrently to the other writer. It is the Guild’s
position that a writer who chooses to question the validity of a collaboration
should do so openly and frankly at the time the work is done and not
several months later in the course of a dispute as to credits.
If a writer is employed to work as part of a team in collaboration with
a writer also employed in an additional capacity, an Application to Collaborate
is required in order for the writer also employed in an additional
capacity to claim co-authorship of the team’s material. (See Section III.C.,
When credit is accorded to a team of writers, an ampersand (&) shall be
used between the writers’ names in the credit to denote a writing team.
Use of the word “and” between writers’ names in a credit indicates that
the writers did their work separately, one usually rewriting the other. This
distinction is well established in the industry through custom and practice.
C. WRITING INDEPENDENTLY OF PRIOR SCRIPTS
It has been the practice and the policy of arbiters in credit arbitrations to
assume that a writer has access to prior literary material, an assumption
based on the custom of the industry.
Although a writer may claim in all honesty not to have seen any prior literary
material, and/or that the producer had asked the writer not to read
any prior literary material; and/or that all copies of prior literary material
had been made unavailable for any reason whatsoever, nevertheless, the
arbiters must act on the basis that there is presumptive evidence that a
writer did, in fact, have access, in spite of a writer’s claim of “writing independently
of prior scripts,” if a significant similarity exists between a prior
piece of literary material and a writer’s later literary material. The arbiters
must proceed on the basis that the similarities in themselves constitute
presumptive evidence that there must have been some sort of access
even if the literary material of the prior writer were only orally transmitted,
as, for example, from a production executive to a later writer. It is
also presumptive evidence that a production executive would relate in
some manner or form, directly or inadvertently, formally or informally,
significant contents of a prior piece of literary material which may or may
not be incorporated in later literary material.
Therefore, it is the policy of the Guild that the written material will prevail,
making the lack of or the existence of a significant similarity between the
prior or later literary material the deciding factor. Because this presumption
is irrebuttable, the claim of writing independently of prior literary
material may not be considered by a Policy Review Board.
This section relates only to the presumption that subsequent writers
have access to prior writers’ literary material. Please see “Section III. Guild
Policy on Credits” for contribution necessary to receive credit.
Back to Contents
II. CREDIT DETERMINATION PROCEDURE
A. NOTICE OF TENTATIVE WRITING CREDIT
Television Schedule A of the MBA provides that the Company will send
to each participating writer, and the Guild concurrently a Notice of Tentative
Writing Credits (“Notice”). The Company also is required to provide
each participating writer a copy of the final shooting script (or if
such script is not available, the latest revised script).
A participating writer is defined as a writer who has been employed by
the Company on the story and/or teleplay, or a “professional writer” who
has sold or licensed literary material subject to the MBA (See Section
III.A.4. for the definition of “professional writer). In addition, in the case
of a remake, any writer who has received writing credit under any WGA
Basic Agreement in connection with a prior produced version shall also
be considered a participating writer. If a participating writer is unavailable
to participate in the credit determination process, an appropriate
representative may participate on such writer’s behalf. As a participating
writer, he/she shall be entitled to participate in the procedure for determination
of writing credits.
Although it is the Company’s responsibility to send the Notice properly
in accordance with the MBA provisions, it is in the best interest of each
participating writer to make sure the Guild and the Company always
have current address information to ensure proper and timely delivery.
If a writer contractually designates an agent or other representative to
receive Notices then the writer should periodically remind such representative
to forward all Notices in a timely manner so important deadlines
are not missed.
If a participating writer intends to be away from his/her residence or for
any other reason will not be able to receive materials at his/her customary mailing address, this writer should give prompt written notice to the
Company to send the Notice and the final shooting script to a specified
B. WHAT TO DO UPON RECEIPT OF NOTICE
1. If a participating writer agrees with the tentative writing credits proposed
by the Company, the writer does nothing, signifying acquiescence
by failure to protest.
2. If after reading the final script, a participating writer wishes to discuss
the credits with the other participating writers involved before deciding
whether or not to protest the tentative writing credits, the writer may call
the Guild and the Guild will make reasonable efforts to arrange for such
3. If after reading the final script a participating writer wishes to protest
the tentative writing credits as proposed by the Company, the writer
sends a protest both to the Company and the Guild in substantially the
“I HAVE READ THE FINAL SCRIPT AND I HEREBY PROTEST THE TENTATIVE
WRITING CREDITS ON (NAME OF PRODUCTION) AND CONSIDER
CREDIT SHOULD BE _______________________ .”
Such written protest must be received by the Company and the Guild
within the time specified at the bottom of the Notice, but in no event
shall this time be less than that specified in the MBA which states, “The
Company will keep the final determination of screen credits open until
a time specified in the notice by the Company but such time will not
be earlier than 6:00 p.m. of the fifth business day following the next
day after the dispatch of the notice above specified (7 business days);
provided, however, that if in the good faith judgment of the Company
there is an emergency requiring earlier determination and the Company
so states in its notice, such time will not be earlier than 6:00 p.m. of the
next business day following the next day after the dispatch of the notice
above specified (3 business days).”
No participating writer should request credit or ask for an arbitration
without first having read the final script.
4. In the case of an automatic arbitration, the Guild will be deemed to
have made a written request for arbitration of credits at the time the
Company submits the Notice.1
C. AGREEMENT AMONG WRITERS
The MBA provides that when more than one writer has participated in the
writing of a motion picture, then all participants have the right to agree
unanimously among themselves as to which of them shall receive writing
credits on the television screen and in what form, provided that the form
agreed upon is in accordance with the terms of Television Schedule A of
the MBA, and provided the agreement is reached in advance of arbitration.
The MBA also provides that the form of such credit shall not be suggested
or directed by the Company.
Any participating writer may initiate a meeting or other discussion among
all the writers who have contributed to try to reach such an agreement.
After a protest is received by the Guild, if there is an indication that
agreement on the credits might be reached by the participating writers,
Television Credits staff will make reasonable efforts to arrange a meeting
or other discussion among the writers for this purpose. If no agreement is
reached, credits shall be finally determined by arbitration.
NOTE: The words “arbitration” and “arbiters” and their variants are used in this manual in the broadest general, as opposed to technical, sense as
implying an expeditious, fair and impartial means of resolving differences
among writers as to their credits. There is no intended or implied connection
with the more formalized arbitrations conducted in other forums,
such as court-ordered arbitrations or union-management arbitrations.
Use of the terms “arbitration” and its variants in this manual does not
contemplate that the credit determination procedures hereinafter set
forth are to be construed as a form of statutory arbitration or as a grievance/
arbitration mechanism such as the one contained in Articles 10 and
11 of the MBA.
No individual who serves as an arbiter, consultant, member of a Special
Committee or Policy Review Board shall have an interest in the outcome
of the credit determination.
1. Selection of Arbiters
Any controversy as to credits shall be determined by an Arbitration
Committee consisting of three members of the Guild who shall be drawn
from the Television Arbiters List. The Television Arbiters List includes
writers who have been current members for at least one year and who
have received no less than three writing credits. At least two of the three
arbiters on any Arbitration Committee shall have served on no less than
two previous Arbitration Committees.
In setting up a Committee to serve in a particular arbitration, Television
Credits staff shall submit to the participating writers a copy of the
Television Arbiters List. At that time, the participating writers have the
opportunity to file a list of peremptory challenges deleting a reasonable
number of names from the arbitration in which they are involved.
Television Credits staff will select the Arbitration Committee from the
names remaining on the list after participating writers have had an opportunity
to file a list of peremptory challenges. Wherever possible, arbiters
will be selected who are experienced in the type of writing involved in a
The members of the Committee so selected shall not be informed as to
the name or identity of the other members of the Committee.
2. Television Credits Consultants
One member of the Guild’s Television Credits Committee shall be designated
by Television Credits staff to act as Consultant for each Arbitration
Committee, and he/she shall be available to the members of the Arbitration
Committee for information on policy, rules, precedent and procedure
during the arbitration period. It is his/her duty to aid the Committee
toward a majority decision.
3. Anonymity of Arbiters and Consultants
As has always been Guild practice, the identity of the arbiters and consultants
selected remain anonymous and confidential. The Guild does
not reveal the arbiters’ or consultants’ identities or any identifying information
about them to the Company, the participating writers or anyone
else outside the credit determination process. Arbiters and consultants
volunteer their services in reliance upon the Guild’s promise of anonymity.
4. Rights and Responsibilities of Participants
All participating writers are obligated to cooperate with the Guild, including
Television Credits staff, the Consultant, Special Committee in a Pre-
Arbitration, Arbitration Committee and Policy Review Board panel in
every way required to render a fair and timely decision.
a. Verification of Materials
The MBA requires the Company to submit three copies of all material
written by participating writers as well as the available source material.
Inasmuch as the final determination of credits is based solely on an analysis
of this written material, the participating writer owes it to himself/
herself to examine all literary material and source material submitted to
the Guild by the Company and to make certain that all material written
by him/her has been submitted and such material is accurately attributed
and dated. This may necessitate a trip to the Guild office to examine
Under provisions of the MBA, the Guild has the right to ask for an “as
broadcast” script which will be provided by the Company if it is available
at the time of the arbitration. For this reason, if a participating writer
believes that the “final shooting script” does not accurately reflect what
was shot during principal photography, the writer should request Television
Credits staff to ask the Company to submit an “as broadcast” script.
If the “as broadcast” script is submitted to the Arbitration Committee, it
is not credited to any participating writer.
b. Statement to the Arbitration Committee
The statement to the Arbitration Committee provides the participating
writer with an opportunity to explain why the writer is entitled to a particular
credit. While the Arbitration Committee bases its decision solely
on literary material, including scripts, stories, treatments, etc., and source
material, each participating writer is strongly urged to submit a written
statement of his/her position to Television Credits staff to forward to
the arbiters. The statement should objectively and substantively address
the requirements to receive credit as set forth in this Manual, “Section III.
Guild Policy on Credits.” The focus of the statement should be how the
literary material has met the criteria outlined in the Manual for the credit
the writer is seeking. In addition, the statement may include breakdowns
and illustrative comparisons between the final shooting script and earlier
work or any other information which would help the Arbitration Committee
to evaluate the writer’s contribution to the final teleplay.
The Arbitration Committee must base its decision on each writer’s relative
contribution to the final shooting script, and not on the perceived
quality of work or other extraneous factors.
As the written statement is the participating writer’s only opportunity
to communicate his/her position to the arbiters, it is advised that the
writer take due care in its preparation. Generally, statements should not
exceed three, single-spaced typewritten pages. Because of the limitation
of eight business days for the arbitration, this statement must be
delivered to the Guild within 24 hours after the writer has notice that
there has been a protest. Whenever possible, the Guild will extend this
deadline depending on the circumstances of the particular arbitration.
Further, at the request of a participating writer, additional time to submit
a statement may be granted by Television Credits staff within the time
constraints for determination of credits. Such requests will not be unreasonably
denied. A participant’s failure to submit a statement in a timely
fashion shall not preclude the Guild from proceeding with an arbitration
with the statements then available to the Guild. If a participating writer
submits a statement after the materials have been submitted to the Arbitration
Committee, Television Credits staff will forward such statement
to the Arbitration Committee provided such statement is received prior
to a decision of the Arbitration Committee.
Information that cannot be included in a writer’s statement to the Arbitration
Committee includes, but is not limited to, the following:
■ References to a writer’s entitlement to contingent compensation tied
to the receipt of credit on screen;
■ Letters or comments of support from other individuals;
■ Information pertaining to the development process that is not germane
to the arbiters’ analysis of the literary material (e.g. the fact that a
project was “greenlit” after a certain draft);
■ Information that is irrelevant to the written work which may prejudice
any writer in the process;
■ Information that may reveal the identity of any writer in the process
(e.g. a writer’s name or prior credits); and
■ Information that may reveal that a participating writer is a production
executive on the project.
The Television Credits staff member administering the arbitration will
review each participating writer’s statement to ensure compliance with
the above-stated rules.
As a matter of Guild policy, in each arbitration the participating writers’
statements are held confidential by the Guild. They are not provided
to other participating writers, the Company or anyone else outside the
credit determination process.
c. Anonymity of Writers
The identity of all participating writers and any functions they performed
on the production, other than as writers, shall not be revealed to the Arbitration
Committee. Writers will be identified to the Arbitration Committee
only as “Writer A,” “Writer B,” etc., such designations to reflect the order
in which the participating writers wrote.
5. Pre-Arbitration Hearing
In the event that a dispute exists as to the authenticity, identification,
sequence, authorship or completeness of any literary material to be considered
in a credit arbitration, a Special Committee consisting of three
members of the Television Credits Committee shall conduct a hearing at
which all participating writers may present testimony and documentary
evidence. Such Special Committee is empowered to make a binding
determination for purposes of submission of material to the arbiters.
Following a decision of a credit Arbitration Committee, findings and/or
conclusions of a Special Committee may be reviewed by a Policy Review
Board to determine if there has been a misinterpretation, misapplication
or violation of Guild policy.
6. Procedure of Arbitration Committee
The following information and material is sent to each member of the
Arbitration Committee by the Television Credits staff member administering
a. Writing credits as tentatively determined by the Company.
b. Statements submitted by participating writers.
c. A statement of the issues to be determined by the Committee and any
other relevant information as formulated by Television Credits staff.
d. Literary material, including scripts, stories, treatments, etc., verified for
inclusion in the credit arbitration and source material submitted by the
Company, together with a list of the dates and authorship of the material
in chronological order.
Each participating writer may choose to have submitted those verified
literary materials he/she deems relevant to demonstrate his/her writing
contribution to the final shooting script. Every draft need not be submitted.
Each writer should review his/her material in order to make this
As has been the practice, where appropriate, only the final shooting
script and not prior drafts will be submitted to the Arbitration Committee
on behalf of the last participating writer.
The literary material submitted to the Arbitration Committee includes
material written by participating writers who are not seeking writing
credit. This is necessary so that the Arbitration Committee can separate
out the contribution of a subsequent writer from that of a prior writer
who is not seeking credit.
e. A copy of this Credits Manual.
f. Request for telephonic communication to the Television Credits staff
member administering the arbitration by each member of the Arbitration
Committee, indicating each arbiter’s determination of writing credit, with
confirmation of this decision to follow in writing.
Each member of the Arbitration Committee reads all the material submit13
ted independent of the other two arbiters and makes a decision based
on the guidelines for determining credits. Although the participating
writers are encouraged to submit a statement to the Arbitration Committee
advocating for a particular credit, the decision as to the appropriate
credit must be based solely on the literary material submitted
for the arbitration. In determining relative contribution, the Arbitration
Committee bases its determination on what material was actually used,
not the Committee’s personal preference of one script over another.
In the event the members of the Arbitration Committee are not in unanimous
agreement, the Arbitration Committee and the Credit Arbitration
Consultant will participate in a teleconference administered by the Television
Credits staff member administering the arbitration. The members
of the Arbitration Committee will discuss their decisions in an effort to
achieve a unanimous decision. During the teleconference, the members
of the Arbitration Committee shall not be informed as to the name or
identity of the other members of the Committee.
If the Arbitration Committee is unable to reach a unanimous decision
during the teleconference, the majority decision shall be deemed the
decision of the Arbitration Committee. When the Arbitration Committee
reaches a decision, each member of the Committee shall confirm his/her
individual decision in writing with a summation of the reason therefore.
The decision of the Arbitration Committee shall be accepted as final and
communicated by Television Credits staff to all interested parties.
7. Appeals Before a Policy Review Board
Within twenty-four hours of the initial notification of the Arbitration
Committee’s decision, any of the participating writers may request an
internal Guild appeal to a Policy Review Board consisting of the Chair or
Vice-Chair and any other two members of the Television Credits Committee
except the Consultant in the case. If the Chair or Vice-Chair is
unavailable or otherwise unable to serve on a Policy Review Board, the
Policy Review Board shall consist of three members of the Television
Credits Committee. No member of the Policy Review Board shall have an
interest in the outcome of the credit determination.
The function of the Policy Review Board is to determine whether or not,
in the course of the credit determination, there has been any serious
deviation from the policy of the Guild or the procedure as set forth in this
The members of a Policy Review Board are not permitted to read the
material involved for purposes of independently judging writers’ contributions
to the final shooting script, and the Policy Review Board is not
empowered to reverse an Arbitration Committee in matters of judgment
as to the participating writers’ relative contributions to the final script.
Only the following are grounds for a participating writer’s appeal to a
Policy Review Board:
a. Dereliction of duty on the part of the Arbitration Committee or any of
b. The use of undue influence upon the Arbitration Committee or any of
c. The misinterpretation, misapplication or violation of Guild policy.
d. Availability of important literary or source material for valid reasons
not previously available to the Arbitration Committee.
If a writer is considering requesting a Policy Review Board, the writer
may request copies of the arbiters’ written summaries of their decisions,
which will be provided by the Guild without any indication of the arbiters’
Prior to the Policy Review Board hearing, writers requesting such Policy
Review Board should submit a written statement to the Policy Review
Board setting forth the grounds upon which the Policy Review Board is
being requested (i.e., items a., b., c. and/or d. listed above) and the basis
for such claims in reasonable detail. It is not necessary to bring an attorney
to the Policy Review Board as the hearing is informal, although writers
are free to do so if they so choose.
In those cases where it is empowered to act, the Policy Review Board
shall have the authority to direct the original Arbitration Committee to
reconsider the case or to direct Television Credits staff to form a new
The Policy Review Board hearing must be held and its decision rendered
within the time allowed for the arbitration under the provisions of the
The Television Credits staff member administering the arbitration shall
write a letter to the Company and the participating writers notifying
them of the final decision of the Arbitration Committee.
9. Guild Decision Final
Television Schedule A provides:
“The decision of the Guild Arbitration Committee with respect to writing
credits, including any Policy Review Board established in connection
therewith, insofar as it is rendered within the limitations of this paragraph,
shall be final, and the Company will accept and follow the designation of
screen credits contained in such decision and all writers shall be bound
“The decision of the Guild Arbitration Committee may be published in
such media as the Guild may determine. No writer or Company shall be
entitled to collect damages or shall be entitled to injunctive relief as a
result of any decision of the committee with regard to credits. In signing
any contract incorporating by reference or otherwise all or part of this
Basic Agreement, any writer or Company specifically waives all rights or
claims against the Guild and/or its arbiters or any of them under the laws
of libel or slander or otherwise with regard to proceedings before the
Guild Arbitration Committee and any full and fair publication of the findings
and/or decisions of such committee. The Guild and any writer signing
any contract incorporating by reference or otherwise referring to this
subparagraph or any writer consenting to the procedure set forth in this
subparagraph shall not have any rights or claims of any nature against
any Company growing out of or concerning any action of the Guild or
its arbiters or any of them, or any determination of credits in the manner
provided in this subparagraph, and all such rights or claims are hereby
Back to Contents
III. GUILD POLICY ON CREDITS
The term “writer” is defined in the MBA. In general, the term “writer”
means a person employed by a Company to write literary material or a
person from whom a Company purchased literary material who at the
time of purchase was a “professional writer,” as defined in the MBA.
For purposes of credit, a team of writers, as defined in the Television
Credits Manual Section I.B., is considered as one writer.
If literary material covered under the MBA is written by one member
of a team, separate and apart from the work of the team, such literary
material shall be considered separate from the literary material by the
team for purposes of assessing contributions to the final shooting script.
Therefore, such individual is eligible to receive writing credit as an individual
writer and/or as a member of a team.
2. Literary Material
Literary material is written material and shall include stories, adaptations,
treatments, original treatments, scenarios, continuities, teleplays,
screenplays, dialogue, scripts, sketches, plots, outlines, narrative synopses,
routines, and narrations, and, for use in the production of television
3. Source Material
Source material is all material, other than story as hereinafter defined,
upon which the story and/or teleplay is based.
This means that source material is material assigned to the writer which
was previously published or exploited and upon which the writer’s work
is to be based (e.g., a novel, a produced play or series of published articles),
or any other material written outside of the Guild’s jurisdiction (e.g.,
literary material purchased from a non-professional writer). Illustrative
examples of source material credits are: “From A Play by”, “From a Novel
by”, “Based upon a story by”, “From a series of articles by”, “Based upon
a teleplay by” or other appropriate wording indicating the form in which
such source material is acquired. Not all assigned material is source
material. For example, literary material written by prior participating writers
and research material are not considered source material.
4. Professional Writer
The MBA generally defines a “professional writer” as a person who has
received employment for a total of thirteen weeks as a television or theatrical
motion picture writer; or received credit on the screen for a television
or theatrical motion picture; or received credit for a professionally
produced play or a published novel. A writer may also negotiate with a
Company to be treated as a “professional writer” even if the writer would
not otherwise qualify as a “professional writer” under the MBA.
B. RULES FOR DETERMINING CREDIT
In determining relative contribution, the relevant factors shall be what
material was actually used, not the Arbitration Committee’s personal
preference of one script over another.
A team of writers shall be treated in all respects as a single writer.
1. “Written by”
The term “Written by” is used when the writer(s) is entitled to both the
“Story by” credit and the “Teleplay by” credit.
This credit shall not be granted where there is source material of a story
nature. However, biographical, newspaper and other factual sources may
not necessarily deprive the writer of such credit.
“Written by” credit will not be shared by more than two writers, except
that in unusual cases, and solely as a result of a credit arbitration, the
names of three writers or writing teams may be used.
2. “Story by”
The term “story” means all writing covered by the provisions of the MBA
representing a contribution “distinct from teleplay and consisting of
basic narrative, idea, theme or outline indicating character development
It is appropriate to award a “Story by” credit when: 1) the story was written
under employment under Guild jurisdiction; 2) the story was purchased
by a signatory company from a professional writer, as defined
in the MBA; or 3) when the teleplay is based upon a sequel story written
under the Guild’s jurisdiction. If the story is based upon source material of
a story nature, see “Television Story” below.
Story credit may not be shared by more than two writers. For a second
writer to share story credit, his/her contribution must constitute substantially
more than the contribution of the first writer. In rare instances, a
second writer may be entitled to sole story credit if his/her contribution
to story essentially eliminates the contribution of the first writer.
A story may be written in story form or may be contained within other
literary material, such as a treatment or a teleplay, for purposes of receiving
a “Story by” credit.
3. “Television Story by”
If the writer is furnished source material but takes from it only a characterization,
an incident or some equally limited contribution, creating a
substantially new and different story from the source material, he/she
may receive credit for “Television Story by,” but only as the result of arbitration.
In such cases the author of the source material may be given
credit that specifies the form in which his/her material was acquired -- for
instance, “From a Play by,” “From a Novel by,” “From a Saturday Evening
Post Story by,” “From a Series of Articles by,” “From a Story by,” etc.
Television Story credit may not be shared by more than two writers.
4. “Teleplay by”
A teleplay consists of individual scenes and full dialogue or monologue
(including narration in connection therewith), and camera set-ups, if
required, together with such prior treatment, basic adaptation, continuity,
scenario and dialogue as shall be used in, and represent substantial
contributions to, the final script.
a. Guidelines for the Arbiters in Determining Teleplay Credit
A “Teleplay by” credit is appropriate when there is source material of
a story nature (with or without a “Television Story” credit) or when the
writer(s) entitled to “Story by” credit is different than the writer(s) entitled
to “Teleplay by” credit.
Credit for teleplay will not be shared by more than two writers, except
that in unusual cases, and solely as a result of a credit arbitration, the
names of three writers or the names of three writing teams may be used.
The limitation on the number of writers applies to all dramatic teleplays
except multiple-story teleplays, revues, variety and audience participation
In each case the arbiters read any source material and all literary material
provided to them in connection with the development of the final
teleplay in order to assess the contribution of each writer to the final
The relative contribution of writers to teleplay obviously cannot be
determined by counting lines or even the number of pages to which a
writer has contributed. Arbiters must take into consideration the following
elements in determining whether a writer is entitled to teleplay credit:
■ dramatic construction;
■ original and different scenes;
■ characterization or character relationships; and
It is up to the Arbitration Committee to determine which of the above listed
elements are most important to the overall values of the final teleplay
in each particular case.
It is possible to consider the writer of a story or treatment as eligible for
teleplay credit, but only in those cases where the story or treatment is
written in great detail, to an extent far beyond the customary requirements
for a story or treatment.
b. Additional Guidelines for the Arbiters in Determining Teleplay
A writer who is the original writer (herein sometimes called the “first
writer”) of a teleplay is entitled to no less than shared teleplay credit
unless a “second writer(s)” contributes all of the four teleplay elements
listed above to a degree that the contribution of the “first writer” in all
of the four elements is essentially eliminated. A “second writer(s)” is any
writer or writers who render writing services on a teleplay after the “first
Notwithstanding the requirement that a “second writer” must contribute
substantially more than the “first writer” in order to share teleplay credit,
where there is more than one “second writer” and where they together
contribute substantially more to the teleplay than the “first writer,” but
no one writer contributes substantially more than the “first writer,” the
“second writer(s)” contributing most substantially to their combined
contribution shall be entitled to teleplay credit.
As a general rule, for a “second writer(s)” to share teleplay credit the
contribution to the teleplay must consist of changes of a substantial and
original nature that, in the opinion of the Arbitration Committee, go to
the root of the drama or comedy and constitute substantially more than
the contribution of the “first writer.”
A second writer may receive credit if he/she contributes substantially
more than the first writer to one or more of the four teleplay elements,
described in Section III.B.4.a., above. It is not essential that the writer has
contributed to all of the elements. It is because of the need to understand
contributions to the teleplay as a whole that professional expertise
is required on the part of the Arbitration Committee. For example, there
have been instances in which every line of dialogue has been changed
and still the Committee found no significant change in the teleplay as
a whole. On the other hand, there have been instances where far fewer
changes in dialogue have made a significant contribution to the teleplay
as a whole. In addition, a change in one portion of the script may be so
significant that the entire teleplay is affected by it. It is because of the
need to weigh the relative importance of these elements and to understand
contributions to the teleplay as a whole that experience is required
on the part of the Arbitration Committee, which in each case reads any
source material and all of the writing which has been done in the development
of the final teleplay in order to assess the contribution of each
writer to the shooting script.
c. Selection from Source Material
As a guideline for arbiters in cases involving a non-original teleplay based
upon source material, it is a fundamental principle that selection of teleplay
elements from the source material is a part of the creative process
of writing the teleplay. Arbiters should give weight to any writer’s original
and unique utilization, choice, or arrangement of source material when
it is present in the final shooting script, but not the employment of basic
story elements which any other writer may have also selected. (See teleplay
elements - Sec. III.B.4.b. See story elements - Sec. III.B.2.)
5. “Adaptation By”
Because of the strong feeling against a multiplicity of credits, the Guild is
opposed to the general use of the “Adaptation by” credit. However, the
Guild recognizes that there are certain unusual cases where credit is due
a writer who shapes the direction of teleplay construction without qualifying for “Teleplay by” credit. In those special cases, and only as a result
of arbitration, the “Adaptation by” credit may be used.
6. Variety or Audience Participation Shows
The credit customarily given writers of this type of program is:
Where a writer has contributed material but is not entitled to share in
“Written by” credit, an additional credit may be given for such material,
by waiver only, in the form:
“Special Material by”
These credits are subject to determination under Appendix A, Television
Schedule C, of the MBA. There is no limitation as to the number of writers
who may share such credits.
The term “narration” means material used (typically off-camera) to
explain or relate sequence or action (excluding promos or trailers).
Credit for narration shall be accorded only to a writer other than the
writer of a teleplay or story and teleplay.
Credit for narration shall be accorded only to a writer other than the
writer of a teleplay or story and teleplay.
a. Film assembled in story sequence:
Where no material or a story only has been written at the time the narration
writer is employed, the appropriate form of credit is “Narration
Where a story and teleplay have been written at the time the narration
writer is employed and if there is over eight minutes (in the aggregate)
of narration, the appropriate form of credit is “Narration by.” This credit
shall not become final or effective unless approved by a credit arbitration.
b. Film not assembled in story sequence:
Where no material has been written at the time the narration writer is
employed, the appropriate form of credit is “Written by.”
Where a story only has been written at the time the narration writer is
employed, the appropriate form of credit is “Narration Written by.”
8. No Other Credits Approved
Any form of credit not expressly described in this Manual shall be used
only upon receipt of a waiver from the Guild. Fewer names and fewer
types of credit enhance the value of all credits and the dignity of all writers.
C. PRODUCTION EXECUTIVES
The term “production executive” means any employee of the Company
customarily hired for, or engaging in, activities considered part of the
managerial phase of the Company’s business activities. For the purpose
of credit determination, the following are considered to be production
executives: producers, directors, story editors, story supervisors, or any
other person who represents management in dealing with writers.
1. Automatic Arbitration Provisions
Television Schedule A of the MBA provides:
“Unless the writing of the story and/or teleplay is done entirely without
any other writer, no story or teleplay credit to a production executive
shall become final or effective unless approved by a credit arbitration as
herein provided, in accordance with the Guild rules for the determination
of such credit.”
2. Notice Requirements
A production executive may not receive credit on the basis of work done
as a member of a writing team, except as a member of a head-to-head
collaboration on such terms as may be approved by the Board of Directors.
As in all cases, decisions of Arbitration Committees are based solely
upon literary material. Therefore, production executives, as well as other
writers, should keep dated copies of all literary material written by them
and submitted to the Company.
In the case of remakes, any writer who has received writing credit under
the Guild’s jurisdiction in connection with a prior version of the motion
picture is a participating writer on the remake. As such, those prior writers
are entitled to participate in the credit determination process and are
eligible to receive writing credit pursuant to the rules for determining
writing credits. The material written by a prior writer(s) shall be considered
If under the “Rules for Determining Writing Credits” (Section III.B.) the
Arbitration Committee determines that such prior writer(s) is not entitled
to receive writing credit, the Arbitration Committee may, within its
discretion, accord such prior writer(s) a credit in the nature of a source
material credit, such as “Based on a Teleplay by....”
However, the rules do not preclude a prior writer(s) from receiving both
writing credit and a credit in the nature of a source material credit at the
discretion of the Arbitration Committee. In the case of a remake, credit
may be accorded to the credited writer(s) of the prior motion picture as
a. The Arbitration Committee can elect to give the prior writer(s) no
credit of any kind.
b. The Arbitration Committee can elect to give the prior writer(s) a
”based on” credit only.
c. The Arbitration Committee can elect to give credited writer(s) from
the original motion picture a writing credit only. In that instance, the
credited writer(s) from the original motion picture cannot receive any
more credit than they received on the original.
d. The Arbitration Committee can elect to give the prior writer(s) both a
writing credit and a ”based on” credit.
E. SEPARATION OF RIGHTS
Provided certain rather technical requirements are fulfilled, the writer of
the format, story or story and teleplay for a new television series may be
entitled to “separated rights” in the series.
Although the producer acquires, for a limited time, the exclusive right
to exploit sequel rights in the writer’s material, the writer with separated
right retains all other rights including, but not limited to, for example, dramatic
rights, theatrical motion picture rights, publication rights, merchandising
rights, radio rights, and live television rights. In addition, the writer
is guaranteed sequel payments for each episode in an episodic series.
The potential economic importance of separated rights to a writer thus
gives an arbitration for separated rights a special significance.
The 1977–2008 Theatrical and TV MBAs provide that where there are
separated rights in a series, the Guild will determine which of the writers
of the format, story, or story and teleplay is entitled to the separated
rights (including sequel payments) or the proportion in which each shall
share. When there are separated rights, the writer entitled thereto shall
receive “Created by” credit.
The term “format” as defined in the MBA means a written presentation
consisting of the following:
As to a serial or episodic series, such format sets forth the framework
within which the central running characters will operate and which
framework is intended to be repeated in each episode; the setting,
theme, premise or general story line of the proposed serial or episodic
series; and the central running characters which are distinct and identifiable,
including detailed characterizations and the interplay of such
characters. It also may include one or more suggested story lines for
b. “Created by”
A “Created by” credit shall be given on each episode of an episodic
series or serial to the writer when such writer has separated rights and is
entitled to sequel payments under the terms of the MBA. The Company
may contract to give such credit to any writer, but such contract shall
provide that in the event another writer is determined to be entitled to
such credit, as provided above, that writer shall be given a “Developed
by” credit or other similar credit.
c. “Developed by”
A “Developed by” or “Developed for Television by” credit shall be given
only to a person who has contributed to the writing of the program,
series or episode involved. As a general rule, a “Developed by” credit
would be granted to that writer who has contributed significantly to the
series’ distinctiveness and viability, but not enough to warrant a “Created
by” credit. It is up to the arbiters to determine whether or not it is appropriate
to award “Developed by” to the writer proposed for such credit by
3. Who is Eligible for Separated Rights
a. The writer of the format(s), and/or
b. A credited writer of the story or story and teleplay of the film(s) from
which the series derives. (A writer receiving only teleplay credit is not
eligible to share separated rights.)
In the analysis of the material and in the determination of the ownership
of the separated rights, the writer entitled thereto must, therefore, be
either the writer of the format or a credited writer of the story(ies) from
which the series derives, or both. (This would include a writer receiving a
“Written by” credit.)
4. The Criteria
When only one writer has written all of the material (format and/or story
or stories), that writer is entitled to the separated rights. The necessity
for arbitration arises when the material of the original writer has been
revised or augmented by a subsequent writer.
The material should be analyzed to determine the significant changes
that were made from the original material. (A “significant change” is
defined as a change or additional element that contributes in a fundamental
way to the series’ distinctiveness or viability.) If changes or additional
elements have been contributed, then whether those changes or
additional elements are significant must be determined. If the changes
or additional elements are not significant, then the writer of the original
material is entitled to 100% of the separated rights. If significant changes
have been made, then the proportion in which the writer who contributed
the significant change is entitled to share separated rights must be
determined. Equal weight need not be given to each element nor is each
element equally important in each series.
The elements that should be analyzed are the following:
a. The framework in which the central running character(s) will operate –
which framework is intended to be repeated in each episode.
b. The setting (locale, time, etc.)
c. The theme or point of view.
d. The premise or general story line (as distinguished from the story in a
e. The central running character(s).
f. The interplay among the characters.
g. The flavor, style, or attitude.
A significant change (as defined above) in one of the foregoing elements
may entitle the writer who contributed that change to a share in the
separated rights. (As an illustration, changing the locale of “The Beverly
Hillbillies” to Park Avenue may not significantly affect the series, whereas
a move to Slippery Rock would drastically alter the concept of the show.
Changing a faceless detective – to use another illustration – into a distinct
and identifiable character, such as Charlie Chan, might also constitute a
significant change.) If it is determined that no significant changes were
made in the format, for example, the separated rights should be granted
to the writer of the format. If, on the other hand, it is determined that
significant changes were contributed by a subsequent writer, then the
proportion in which the original and subsequent writers will share must
be determined. It is not essential that the writer has contributed all of the
5. Determining the Proportionate Share of Separated Rights
If more than one writer, in the judgment of the Arbitration Committee, is
entitled to a share of the separated rights (including sequel payments),
then the proportion in which each is entitled to share must be determined.
Except in the rare case in which four or more writers would share,
these proportions should be no less than 30% for an individual writer and
should be allocated in 10% increments. Two writers thus could share separated
rights only in the following proportions: 30-70, 40-60, or 50-50.
Three writers could share only in the proportion of 30-30-40.
6. Procedure in the Event of A Disagreement Among the Arbitrators
In the event that the arbitrators reach different conclusions as to the
share to which the writers of the material are entitled the arithmetic mean
(to the nearest 10%) of the arbitrators’ awards will be used as the basis
for assigning the individual shares of the separated rights (and sequel
payments). A comparable procedure will be used to determine the order
of names in the “Created by” credit.
7. Procedure in Separation of Rights Arbitrations
In general, the procedure in a Separation of Rights arbitration is the same
as that set forth in Section II. above, with the following differences:
a. The Guild will maintain two lists of arbitrators for Separation of Rights
arbitrations: a list consisting of experienced arbitrators who have written
comedy pilots, and a list of those who have written dramatic pilots.
b. Prior to each Separation of Rights arbitration, a copy of the complete
list of eligible arbitrators will be sent to each participant, in order that he
may strike any names that he finds unacceptable.
c. A member of the Television Credits Committee experienced in the
writing of pilots will serve as consultant to the arbitration panel.
8. “Developed by” Credit
In addition to determining which writer or writers are to receive separated
rights and therefore a “Created by” credit, it may be necessary to
determine if any other writer or writers are entitled to a “Developed by”
credit. A “Developed by” or “Developed for Television By” or any like
credit may be given only to a person who has contributed to the writing
of the program.
It should be emphasized that the Guild does not have the right to award
a “Developed By” credit unless:
a. The employer agrees to such credit.
b. Another writer has separated rights in the series (and thus a “Created
Any writer who is eligible for but not entitled to separated rights may be
eligible for a “Developed By” credit. Also (as distinguished from eligibility
for separated rights) a writer who receives a teleplay credit, but not a
story credit, may be eligible for a “Developed By” credit.
As a general rule, a “Developed By” credit would be granted to that
writer who has contributed significantly to the series’ distinctiveness and
viability, but not enough to warrant a “Created By” credit.
Because a “Developed By” credit tends to diminish the importance of a
“Created By” credit, it should be granted only when the use of a “Created
By” credit alone would substantially misrepresent the writer(s) responsible
for the series’ distinctiveness or viability.
F. WITHDRAWAL FROM CREDIT
A participating writer may not withdraw from credit on a project on
which he/she is the only participating writer.
Prior to the time a credit question has been submitted to arbitration,
a writer may withdraw from writing credit for personal cause, such as
violation of his/her principles or mutilation of material he/she has written.
If the other writer-contributors do not agree, the question shall be
referred to arbitration. The Arbitration Committee in such cases shall
base its determination on whether there is such personal cause.
After credits have been determined by arbitration, a writer may not withdraw
his/her name from credit. Withdrawal from writing credit will result
in loss of any and all rights accruing from receipt of writing credit. Use of
a pseudonym rather than withdrawing from credit will not result in such
a forfeiture. (See I. below.)
G. GUILD’S RIGHT TO PROTEST
Pursuant to the provisions of the MBA the Guild has the right to protest
credits proposed by the Company. The Guild may act irrespective of
the wishes of any of the participating writers in order to ensure that the
credit rules are properly applied.
H. ORDER OF NAMES
The order of writers’ names in a shared credit may be arbitrated. Generally, the most substantial contributor is entitled to first position credit.
Where there is no agreement among the arbiters as to order of names,
or where the Arbitration Committee determines that the credited writers’
contribution is equal, then the Arbitration Committee shall order the
writers’ names chronologically.
The MBA provides that any writer who is entitled to credit on the screen
and who has been paid, or is guaranteed payment of, less than three (3)
times the applicable minimum provided for in the MBA shall have the
right to be accorded credit on the screen, in advertising or otherwise, in a
reasonable pseudonymous name.
The writer shall exercise his/her said right within the time he/she may
give written notice of protest as provided in Paragraph 13 of Television
Schedule A.; provided, however, that in the event of a timely protest by
any participating writer, the time to exercise his or her right to use of a
pseudonym shall be extended to 24 hours after the Guild’s credit determination,
but in no event later than the applicable time periods set forth
in Paragraph 14 of Television Schedule A.
None of the writer’s rights, including but not limited to compensation of
any kind, shall be affected by use of such pseudonym.
Before using a pseudonym a writer must register it with the Guild by
sending a written notice to the Membership Department with the writer’s
Social Security number, if any. A pseudonym may not duplicate the
name or pseudonym of another writer or the name of a public figure.
Subject to the terms of a fully-executed strike settlement agreement
between a signatory company and the Guild, Television Credits staff shall
be empowered to obtain the true name and identity of any writer listed
by pseudonym on any Notice of Tentative Writing Credit submitted to
the Guild. In the event that the Company or writer refuses to reveal the
true identity of a writer listed by pseudonym on a Notice of Tentative
Writing Credit on which the names of one or more other writers also
appear, such writer listed by pseudonym shall not be entitled to receive
writing credit, and credit shall be awarded to the other writers as the
Arbitration Committee or Television Credits staff determines.
J. WRITTEN MATERIAL PREVAILS
Decisions of Arbitration Committees are based solely upon literary
material. Claims of authorship must be supported by literary material
appropriate for submission to the Arbitration Committee. In the event of
conflicting claims, literary material always prevails.
K. REVISION OF SCRIPT AFTER FINAL CREDIT DETERMINATION
If, after screen credits are finally determined, material changes are made
in the literary material, either the Company or a participating writer and
the Guild jointly may reopen credit determination by making a claim
within 48 hours after completion of the writing work claimed to justify
the revision of credits; and in such case the procedure for the original
determination of credits is followed.
L. PUBLICIZING OF CREDITS
The MBA and Guild Working Rules 15 and 16 provide that no writer shall
claim credit for screen authorship on any motion picture prior to the time
when the credits have been determined, and no writer shall claim credits
contrary to such determination. In addition, the Guild believes that it is in
the best interest of all writers that certain facts relating to any particular
credit determination should remain confidential. For example, participating
writers are asked to refrain from commenting in the press or media
about issues related to pre-arbitration hearings, arbiters’ written decisions
or Policy Review Board hearings.
These rules and procedures have been derived from the experience and
practice of the past years. Although they remain the guiding policy by
which credits are determined, they are not to be considered rigid or
inflexible. The Guild has the discretion to depart from precedent when
new conditions, new problems, or new methods of work may require an
alteration of the rules or a new application of an existing rule to a unique
set of facts and circumstances.
It is now accepted that administration of writers’ credits belongs to the
writers themselves. It is their responsibility to see to it that credits are
administered wisely and well, that the written work product of participating
writers is credited as accurately as possible, and that the overall
result leads ultimately to a recognition of the importance of the writers’
contribution to the screen.
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1 The MBA requires an automatic credit arbitration in the following circumstances:
1) a production executive is proposed for writing credit and there are
other, non-production executive participating writers on the project; 2) three
writers are proposed for “Written by” or “Teleplay by” credit; 3) a “Television
Story by” credit is proposed; 4) an “Adaptation by” credit is proposed; and 5)
a “Developed by” credit is proposed on a series in which there are separated