The Association of Talent Agents is calling out the WGA on its demand that agents turn over their writer-clients’ contracts and invoices to the guild.
“Agents have a fiduciary duty not to disclose a client’s confidential financial information unless the client consents to the disclosure,” the ATA said in a statement released today. “The WGA leadership is well aware that most clients prefer not to disclose this information, which is why the Guild does not enforce its existing rules requiring writers to send their contracts to the WGA.”
The WGA says it needs the information in order to provide “the ‘muscle’ in defense of vulnerable writers” by gathering employment data in its fight against free work, late pay, and the underpayment of writers. Turning over contracts and invoices has been a demand of the guild’s since April 13, when the WGA implemented its Code of Conduct and ordered all of its members to fire their agents who refuse to sign it. The Code also bans packaging fees after one year and prohibits agency affiliations with corporately related production entities.
Many mid-tier agents who don’t do much packaging and have no production affiliates have refused to sign the Code because of the guild’s requirement that they also turn over their writers’ contract information. The WGA’s own rules require writers to submit their contracts to the guild.
“Studios are also already required to provide copies of all writer contracts to the guild,” the ATA said, noting that its proposals for a new deal with the guild “included providing writer contracts, with the right of their clients to say ‘no.’ Yet the WGA rejected that outright and the only ‘opt-out’ they have since accepted is one that requires agencies to report on clients, by name, to the Guild. This is not about the Guild serving as the ‘muscle,’ but rather another example of its continuous attempts to limit writers’ choice.”
In seeking that information, the guild told its members that it “is never going to be Big Brother. It’s never going to interfere with your creative process. The Guild cannot order a writer to deliver a script; a script is ready when you, the writer, say it is. But with the right information, the Guild can check to see if a writer wants intervention when a producer is coercing endless drafts. And by collecting and aggregating data, the Guild can determine who the worst offenders are in this area, and address that in a collective manner.”
The WGA’s Working Rule #3 already provides that “each member must promptly file with the Guild office a copy of his/her contract of employment (whether such agreement provides for leasing of material, participation in profits, residuals or otherwise) in no case later than one week after the receipt of the contract. In addition to any other disciplinary action which may be deemed proper, an automatic fine shall be levied upon a member who fails to file his/her contract within two weeks after written notice that there is no contract on record.”
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