Australian Writers’ Guild calls for scrutiny of streaming download rights

26 September, 2015 by Staff Writer

The Australian Writers’ Guild has raised concerns over ABC writers’ contracts which seek to assign to the ABC, streaming and online download rights.

The guild has issued a statement which claims that the ABC is circulating contracts which vary the terms of individual writers’ agreements.


“The new contracts seek to assign to the ABC, streaming and online download rights in exchange for additional fees and residuals.

“For free streaming services, the ABC proposes to pay writers a license fee of 3.75 per cent of their original fee. This allows the broadcaster to communicate the program for 12 non-continuous months over a period of 7 years.

“For paid services, additional residuals are to be paid at approximately 8.3 per cent of net receipts on all sales.

According to the AWG, its negotiated agreements do not contemplate this type of online broadcasting.

“The Series and Serials Agreement (SASA) allows producers to purchase ancillary ‘new media’ rights by applying a loading of 30 per cent of the original writer’s fee but these rights do not account for the fact that streaming services allow for virtually unlimited plays.

“Neither the Miniseries and Telemovies Agreement (MATA) nor the Children’s Television Agreement (CTA) has equivalent provisions.

Given that there are currently no industry standard rates or definitions for this type of broadcast, the contracts leave several issues undetermined, according to the AWG.

“It is unclear how the streaming/download model will affect writing fees under the SASA, since those fees are calculated on a per play basis.

“The distinction between free ‘catch up’ services like iView, which streams programs for a certain number of days after airing, and paid archives like Stan and Presto must also be scrutinised.

“Furthermore, it is uncertain if these rights are transferable to international broadcasters without further payments to the writer.

The AWG is making enquiries to determine how aligned the ABC’s contract is with local and international industry practice.

An ABC spokesman said the ABC valued all the writers it worked with “and the rich contributions they make”.

“The current terms of ABC writer agreement have been in place for almost a decade and are confidential,” he said.

“However it is important to note that the majority of ABC commissions involve independent producers who contract directly with writers rather than the ABC.

“If any writers are concerned about the agreement they are welcome to contact us.”