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What details do I need to know regarding internet distribution of my produced script?

By Robert L. Seigel

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Question: I have interest in my script from a company that makes movies solely for internet distribution. What are the kind of details I need to know about this business model in terms of signing an agreement, payment and royalties and should there be a clause in case it was ever picked up for a theatrical release?

I will assume that you are stating that the company makes movies that are like feature-length “webisodes” and not conventional features which are being delivered via download or streaming. Since web projects have to hold the viewer’s attention when he or she is at the computer, the web projects tend to be shorter in length, Sometimes a project is divided into separate webisode segments and then edited back into one project for television or DVD exhibition.

Most internet projects have very low budgets compared even to independent film features and upfront compensation generally will be nominal. One issue to consider is whether you would be paid a flat fee only or a per view royalty or a combination of both forms of compensation. You would have to find out how the producer/website owner measures views. Your agreement with the company should have provisions if and when the internet project is produced in such forms as a feature length film, television film or television series and how your compensation would change with a possible bonus or change in compensation structure to that of more conventional media projects on television or DVD or in theatres.

In addition, writers should try to attach themselves as the writers of such subsequent productions. A common provision is many writers’ agreements concerns if they write a television movie but it is distributed as theatrical feature domestically or overseas, that the writer would receive additional compensation. Your involvement in such subsequent projects would be addressed in your agreement under agreed upon stated terms with some element of negotiating for certain details later in good faith by the parties.

As a guide, writers should consult, the WGAW website concerning “new media” for the “WGA Guide To New Media” which covers projects written for the internet or mobile devices (i.e., “mobisodes”) (www.wgaw.com) even if the writers would not qualify as being covered under the WGA New Media Agreement since the writer may not be a WGA member or a “professional writer” as defined by the WGA. The guide covers such issues as compensation, credit and separation of rights (i.e., such as writers receiving passive payments if a project should be developed and produced as a subsequent media production even if the writer is not involved in writing such subsequent projects based).

About Robert L. Seigel

Robert L. Seigel ([email protected]) is a NYC entertainment attorney and a partner in the Cowan DeBaets Abrahams & Sheppard LLP law firm which specializes in the representation of clients in the entertainment and media areas.

DISCLAIMER: The information provided here is intended to provide general information and does not constitute legal advice. You should not act or rely on such information without seeking the advice of an attorney and receiving counsel based on your particular facts and circumstances. Many of the legal principles mentioned might be subject to exceptions and qualifications, which are not necessarily noted in the answers. Furthermore, laws are subject to change and vary by jurisdiction.
Screenwriting Article by Robert L. Seigel

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