What are the rights and responsibilities of a Dramatists Guild member when being produced on Broadway?
The rights and responsibilities of a DG member in this situation are actually one and the same: to use the Guild contract when licensing their Broadway production rights to a producer, to have the contract certified by the Guild, and to pay dues on the royalties they earn from the first-class productions presented under the contract, and from any other Tony-eligible productions of their work.
What is the Approved Production Contract (the “APC”)?
Before the formation of the Dramatists Guild, dramatists did not own or control their work; they were rarely even paid royalties. But beginning in 1926, the DG negotiated a contract with producers for licensing “First Class” (e.g., Broadway) production rights. Originally called the “MBA” (the Minimum Basic Agreement), the contract is now called the “APC” (the Approved Production Contract) and DG members are required to use it as a condition of Guild membership. It ensures that the writer will have ownership of their copyright, as well as approval over changes in the work and over the hiring of all artistic personnel, and the rights to be billed, to be present, and to be paid reasonable options, advances, and royalties, none of which were guaranteed prior to the existence of the Guild.
Members also reserve all the rights not specifically granted under the APC, including foreign territory productions, stock & amateur licensing, music publishing, and audio-visual adaptations. Any revisions to the APC that may be negotiated between the author and the producer must then be certified by the Guild.
What is “APC Certification”?
DG members who are having their work produced on Broadway are required by our bylaws to use the APC to license their rights to producers, and then have those contracts reviewed and certified by the Guild.
Certification is the process by which a completed APC is submitted to the Guild for review. The Guild’s counter-signature then verifies for the writer that any revisions to the contract that were negotiated with the producer are consistent with the Guild’s recommendations for such types of agreements, and that the revised contract doesn’t have sub-standard terms that could negatively impact other DG members. If an APC is not certified by the Guild, it automatically terminates, so the writer is not bound to its substandard terms. A DG member can only license their work without a certified APC by withdrawing from the Guild.
What are “Guild Assessments”?
The Dramatists Guild established the authorial rights expressed in the APC only after many years of determined and concerted effort and it has worked hard, and at great expense, to maintain these rights over the past century. So, in order to support the Guild’s ability to continue its work, Broadway writers have agreed to pay the Guild a small percentage of their royalties earned from their “first class” productions. These dues are called “assessments”.
Assessments are a kind of progressive tax, with over 71% of the Guild’s total dues income currently being paid by writers who represent less than 1% of our total membership. Without assessments, the DG would cease to exist, along with the protections for dramatists established by the Guild and memorialized in our contract.
The writers that have had the great good fortune and opportunity to have a Broadway production understand that their assessments do not just pay for the rights reflected in the APC and its certification process, including ownership and control of their work. These assessments also give writers the opportunity to pay it forward, to help all the DG members who have yet to get their big break and for the generations of dramatists yet to come.
Are only certified contracts subject to assessments?
In 2005, to accommodate the ever-changing landscape of Broadway, the full membership of the Guild voted to amend its bylaws and expand the range of productions which would be subject to assessment. Now, in addition to certified contracts, members are assessed on ALL their first-class productions in New York City, whether or not a production is produced pursuant to an APC. This includes any Tony Award-eligible production,whether or not it’s designated “first-class” pursuant to thecontracts of the various unions involved with the production.
The current definition of assessments reflects the advantages accruing to Guild members by the Guild’s successful and ongoing efforts to maintain standards for the production of plays and musicals on Broadway, providing benefits to dramatists regardless of whether such works are produced on any particular Guild contract. In fact, Guild standards have been so thoroughly adopted at every level of production in America that they have become generic, thereby benefitting non-member writers. But the standards can only be maintained if the Guild continues to operate as the bulwark against encroachment on authorial rights.
How does a member pay assessments?
An “assessments provision” is included in each APC certified by the Guild, which describes the amount of the assessment and how it should be paid. The DG’s bylaws currently provide for assessments on a member’s advances and royalties of 2% for plays and 3% for musicals.
Members pay assessments by forwarding a “letter of direction” to the general manager of the production, instructing them to make direct payments to the DG. The Guild sends a letter of direction to the member for this purpose, during the certification process, but generally no later than six weeks prior to the first performance on Broadway.
If, for some reason, either the member or the producer does not wish to use a letter of direction, members can pay their assessments directly to the Guild and the DG will bill the member on a quarterly basis. When self-assessing in this way, a member needs to remember that assessments are based on the member’s gross royalties (prior to the deduction of any commissions a member may pay to a third party, like an agent) and are payable on the upfront advances and options.
What happens if a member does NOT pay assessments?
The refusal to pay assessments is a serious matter and can lead to a member’s expulsion from the Guild. Even after expulsion, a former member is still bound by the assessments provision of the contract, so their assessment obligation continues to accrue and the DG is empowered to collect monies owed by submitting a claim to arbitration.
If a writer is suffering from a financial hardship, however, any member can discuss the matter with our Director of Membership and accommodations can be made. You can contact the Guild Membership department at firstname.lastname@example.org