Following the announcement that the Writers' Guild has concluded a landmark agreement with ITV, here's a guest post from Gail Renard, chair of the Guild's TV Committee.
Hoorah to the Guild for having secured a great new ITV agreement on behalf of writers. Please note I said writers and not Guild members. Every working day non-members (and you know who you are) use the WGGB agreements in almost every deal they make especially in television (or leave themselves woefully unprotected if they don’t).
All of us scream when our work is pirated on-line or DVDs, etc, on a daily basis. None of us condone stealing. But isn’t it the same if you’re using WGGB agreements and you’re not a member in good standing?
Guild agreements aren’t gifts from the writer gods. Guild members pay annual subscriptions so our small but valiant staff can be eternally vigilant, and negotiate and police all these deals on behalf of our members. Added to that, dozens of members, working writers all, donate their valuable time to sit on our Executive Council and committees; to negotiate alongside our staff for the best minimum term agreements in all media. Using our agreements without being a member of the Guild is just another form of piracy.
A standard excuse for not joining the Guild is “but I’m only just starting out.” But that’s just when you need professional protection, guidance and contractual advice. The Guild cares when no one else does and goes on caring throughout your entire career.
Another top excuse is, 'But I have an agent!' The answer is you need both. An agent bases most of the negotiations they do on WGGB contracts. Without a minimum terms agreements in place, there’d be no safety nets for writers’ rights, terms or conditions; and your agent would start negotiating from scratch. Zero. Zilch. How generous would a production company be if there weren’t recognised benchmarks in place and they had to offer you fees from the goodness of their hearts? And can I add that the Guild asks for subs just over one per cent of your writing income, whereas most agents take 10% or even 15%?
It’s also worth remembering that agents or agents’ associations cannot solely negotiate a collective agreement on behalf of writers. Only a writers’ organisation such as the Guild can. And without a WGGB or Writers Guild of America approved contract, you also won’t be eligible for many major American and British awards.
An industry without the safeguard of the Guild and its agreements would be bedlam, and writers would cease to be able to earn a living. No Writers’ Guild can run on air. The WGGB keeps afloat by members’ subscriptions and we welcome yours. We need you. A pirate by any other name...