Here's Why Every Screenwriter Must Register With The FWA!

By Aditya Savnal. Posted on August 26, 2015

The recent instance of scriptwriter Jyoti Kapoor's copyright violation case against director Kunal Kohli has once again shown how writers are a vulnerable community who are often taken for granted by the film industry. However, Kapoor's landmark victory against Kohli has also given others hope.

FWA is the industry body for screenwriters and it is important that writers register their work with the FWA. One of the foremost reasons that helped Kapoor win the case was the fact that she was a member of the FWA (Film Writers Association) and had registered her script with them. In our interview with Jyoti Kapoor, she had stated this fact rather clearly. It helped Kapoor's claim a great deal in the court of law. Listen to Anjum Rajabali talk about the FWA in this interview we conducted with him a few days back.

Below are 10 FAQ's that will help you understand the benefits of registering with FWA. With the new Copyrights Act (2012) and the minimum wage contract things will change substantially for the writers. We intend to keep updating this as we go along.

This is as per the FWA site. Do check out their site for more details and useful information.

1) Is an FWA registration mandatory for me to be a professional screenwriter?

A registration with FWA is not the perquisite to write for films. But it will help you if you ever run into any problems with fellow writers, producers, directors with regards to creative or other types of disputes with regards to the script. Most of the producers will ask you to register with the FWA as it’s the correct and professional way to function.

2) What all can I get registered with FWA?

FWA provides registration for Lyrics (Song & mukhada), Concept, Synopsis, Story, Treatment, Screenplay with Story & Dialogues (Script). Screenplay without Dialogues (step-outline) and Dialogues.

3) Does F.W.A. help me in case of infringement/ theft of my work ?

If the member is able to give sufficient proof of infringement/ theft and if the work has been registered with the FWA, then through the Dispute Settlement Committee FWA can help you in case of infringement of theft of your work.

4) What should be remuneration for a new writer ?

The rule of thumb for screenwriting fee is 2-5% of the total production budget. This depends upon the negotiations between the Producer and the Writer. The FWA is in the process of negotiating standard minimum wages through the proposed Model contract with the Producer bodies.

5) What are the basic rights of a Writer?

A fair contract, respectable remuneration as per Industry standards, freedom of speech that should be exercised in an accountable manner, due recognition and appropriate royalties are some of the basic default rights of a writer.

6) If I have been engaged to develop an idea given to me by a producer, director or a production house, who does the IPR belong to?

Currently the Indian film industry, operates on 'work for hire' contracts where the Producer is the employer and the Writer is the employee. In such cases, the IPR belongs to the Producer once the Writer finishes his services. Ideally it should be a  'lease and license' scenario where writers permit producers to use their work for making a film for theatrical release for a fee. The new Copyrights Act (2012) ensures that the writer has the first right over his work and is eligible for royalties on any revenue coming from his work post the theatrical release. However this is been contested by the producers lobby.

7) What is Screen Credit? How and at what stage can I determine what Screen Credit I should get?

Screen Credits, are the titles which appear on the screen when the film/show is shown/aired. Your contract must state what credit/s you'll get and in what order they will appear. You can also negotiate on marketing related credits (like on posters, hoardings and other publicity etc.) by incorporating clauses about the same in your contract.

8) What are my rights and dues if a producer decides to terminate an agreement at some stage of development?

Your contract will determine what will happen when such a situation arises as a contract will normally have specific clauses with regards to termination of clauses.

9) Is it necessary for the producer or production house I am working with, to be associated with a producers’ association?

Yes. In case of a dispute or even otherwise, a Producer registered with an Association is more accountable than the others.

10)  A producer wishes to engage me in writing for him. How can I ensure that I sign the right contract?

Be vigilant in matters pertaining to your contracts. Do not sign any contract provided by the producer without consulting a knowledgeable and trustworthy lawyer. You can also prepare your version of a contract with legal consultation and negotiate with your employer.

The FWA site has also information on the rates that can be charged by writers for writing for films, TV serials, telefilms etc. You can click here to get more information about the same. Also here are some tips that writers must keep in mind when regarding their work. Click here to know more about the registration procedure and other terms and conditions required to become a registered FWA member.

Stay informed. Stay ahead.


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