Online rights win

US SCREENWRITERS made significant gains in the settlement of their three-month strike on 11 February. The most difficult issues were payment for re-use of their work online, and for work commissioned for first distribution online. Just as with DVDs, CDs, VHS, and the wax cylinder phonograph, production companies argued that they were investing so much in the new technology that they couldn't possibly pay the people without whom it would be empty. Sob.

These matters will all be familiar, by close analogy, to photographers and writers.

Under the deal, as examples, "electronic sell-through" is paid at 1.2 per cent of the distributor's gross receipts - note "gross" - and ad-supported streaming of television programs produced after 1977 (and a small number produced prior to 1977) are payable at 2 per cent of distributor's gross receipts.

These payments kick in after "an initial window of 17 days (24 days for episodes of the first season of a series, one-off television programs and MOWs)" - the Freelance is pretty sure an MOW is a Movie of the Week, a euphemism for "made for TV film".

The sums involved will not be inconsiderable. UK-based research firm Informa Telecoms & Media estimated on 12 March that subscribers and advertisers would pay $4.72 billion for online content in 2013, up from $1.03 billion last year. That implies more than $60 million a year for writers in five years' time. Now, what was Informa's policy on rights-grabs again?

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