Writers’ groups settle royalties legal fight with Screenrights

Scriptwriters’ groups, the Australian Writers’ Guild Authorship Collecting Society and Australian Writers’ Guild, have settled their legal fight with royalties collection agency Screenrights.

The case was launched in 2016 with the two groups claiming Screenrights engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct by falsely claiming it was representing scriptwriters and had misdirected royalties due to writers over the past two decades.

At the time of launching the case, the 2600-member Australian Writers’ Guild claimed that instead of protecting scriptwriters, Screenrights may have misdirected possibly tens of millions of dollars in royalties that should have been paid to writers over the two decades.

The industry body went onto claim that, based on Screenrights’ own figures, the agency appeared to have collected over $50 million in script royalties over the past 20 years, however AWG’s Australian members had received as little $350,000.

In their case, the two writers’ groups sought declarations are from the Federal Court that Screenrights had committed numerous breaches of trust and breaches of statutory duties, that it engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct under the Australian Consumer Law and that its actions wrongfully interfered with contractual relations between scriptwriters and producers.

Yesterday the three parties announced they had settled the dispute, saying in a joint statement: “The three organisations have entered into a settlement agreement which will see them working together for the benefit of scriptwriters and the industry as a whole.

“The parties have jointly welcomed the settlement and are pleased that the dispute has been resolved amicably for the benefit of their stakeholders.

“AWGACS, AWG and Screenrights said they looked forward to working together to ensure that the interests of local and international scriptwriters are protected and all rightsholders are paid their entitlements equitably, efficiently and accurately.

“The terms of the settlement Deed are confidential and no party will be providing any further public comment on its contents.”

Screenrights was established in 1990 to administer provisions of the Australian Copyright Act that require educational institutions and government departments to pay royalties for radio and TV programs they use or copy. The organisation also collects royalties from pay TV companies who retransmit free-to-air programs.

Earlier this month the agency announced distribution of more than $42.8 million dollars to more than 4,400 individual members over the 2017/18 financial year.


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