If you currently owe assessments or believe you may in the future, please contact our Director of Finance and Administration, Claudia Stuart.
What are “Guild assessments”?
Since the Dramatists Guild’s inception and its first contract in 1926, the DG members who have their work produced on Broadway have been required to have their production contracts certified by the Guild. Under the Guild’s bylaws, a certified contract (currently called the “Approved Production Contract” or “APC”) requires the authors to pay the Guild additional dues in the form of a percentage of the gross royalties they earn from their “first-class” productions. These dues are called “assessments”.
What does certification do?
The DG certification process verifies for members that their Broadway contracts are consistent with the Guild’s recommendations for such types of agreements, including the right for an author to own the copyright in their work, to have approvals over all changes and the hiring of all artistic personnel, as well as the rights to be billed, to be present, and to be paid. It also reserves certain rights to the author, including foreign territory production rights, stock and amateur licensing, and audio-visual rights.
A member’s right to have their Broadway contracts certified is in the Guild’s bylaws (under Article IV, Section 1 and Article IX, Section 7) which can be read HERE.
Are only certified contracts subject to Guild assessments?
Since assessments began in 1926, Broadway has changed. First, revivals began to be presented, and now they constitute a large portion of any new Broadway season. The DG contract was not created with revivals in mind and so, though a member can negotiate with a producer to have a revival contract submitted for certification, and though the Guild recommends that its members do so, revivals are not subject to be certified as a condition for membership in the Guild.
In addition to revivals, non-profit theaters began producing Tony-eligible works on Broadway. The APC was not designed for such productions, either. While some non-profit theaters have agreed to participate in the certification process, others have not, and none are subject to do so by the Guild.
So, 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 the contracts of the various unions involved with the production.
The bylaws also permit the Guild to assess off-Broadway productions as well, but the Guild has chosen not to assess such productions (except for Tony-eligible productions), due to the financial hardship such an assessment would impose on writers who are not enjoying the exponentially greater income that a Broadway production offers.
The bylaws also allow for assessments of a member’s income from audio-visual adaptations. But that assessment has been interpreted to pertain only to the audio-visual rights previously licensed under the terms of the “Negotiator” provision of the APC, which is now a defunct vestige of the contract that is customarily deleted in certified contracts.
The current amount and scope of assessments are in the bylaws (under Article IV), which can be read HERE.
How does a Guild member pay assessments?
A “Guild Assessments” provision is included in each APC certified by the Guild, which describes the nature of the assessment and how it should be paid.
You can read the APC’s “assessments provision” HERE.
Members pay assessments to the Guild by forwarding a letter of direction to the general manager of the production, directing them to make direct payments to the DG. The Guild sends a member a letter of direction for their use, either during the certification process or, if it’s for a production that doesn’t require certification, then no later than six weeks prior to the first performance on Broadway.
Each letter of direction is written specifically for each member’s assessed production but you can read a sample letter of direction HERE.
If, for some reason, either the member or the producer do 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, too.
To pay assessments directly, contact Claudia Stuart HERE.
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.
You can read the applicable provisions of the bylaws (Article IX, Sections 1, 6 and 7) HERE.
But why do Guild members have to pay assessments in the first place?
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.” But the standards can only be maintained if the Guild continues to operate as the bulwark against encroachment on authorial rights.
DG members understand that the Dramatists Guild established the authorial rights expressed in the APC only after many years of determined and concerted effort and that 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 agree to pay the Guild a percentage of their royalties earned from their “first-class” productions.
Writers that have had the great good fortune and opportunity to have a Broadway production also understand that their assessments do not just pay for their own benefits, as 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 writers who have yet to get their big break and for the generations of dramatists yet to come.
You can read more about the mission and history of The Dramatists Guild HERE.
You can order a copy of the current “Approved Production Contract” HERE.