Screenwriter Association drafts a standard release form

MCAI - 20 Jan 2020

Currently in its 60th year, the Screenwriters Association (SWA) aims to help members decode the confusing legalese that constitutes the first contract they are made to sign when submitting their script to a producer or production house. Termed ‘release form’, the contract binds the writer and producer to “honour the sanctity of a script”, but from their recent experience, SWA lawyers believe the document absolves producers of all legal obligations, leaving its members’ intellectual property vulnerable. “We analysed release forms from around 15 production houses and found several clauses which are unfair to writers and won’t stand in the court of law,” elaborates Anamika Jha, who handles legal matters for the association. Anjum Rajabali, executive committee member of SWA, explains more simply, “It’s like I ask my neighbour to keep an eye on my house while I’m on vacation and he asks me to sign a note that I can’t sue him for stealing, even if later I see the same things in his house.” To streamline the process, the writers’ body has now drafted an ideal contract. “It is an unbiased form, which serves the purpose of an initial contract and doesn’t victimise either party. It asks producers to honour confidentiality, respect copyright and do away with redundant clauses,” shares Jha, adding they’ll soon send out letters to all production houses and independent producers, asking for their support. Bikas Mishra, head of the media sub-committee, points out that new writers usually don’t have bargaining power. If they don’t sign the contract, they lose out on an opportunity and if they do, it hampers their prospects. The idea is to empower them. “If they are dismissive towards our request, we will speak to the CEOs and try to work out a mutually beneficial agreement,” says Anjum, while Bikas adds that they will ask writers to not sign such contracts and also send a notice to those production houses. He, however, admits that there is no way to legally enforce their request since it is only a contract between two parties and the association is not involved in the deal.

Source: Mumbai Mirror

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