AWGACS, AWG and Screenrights settle legal dispute

AWG president Jan Sardi. 

After more than two and a half years, the Australian Writers’ Guild Authorship Collecting Society (AWGACS), Australian Writers’ Guild and Screenrights have settled their Federal Court dispute.

AWG and AWGACS launched legal action against Screenrights in March 2016, alleging it had failed to pay scriptwriters’ royalties. Screenrights was established in 1990 to administer provisions in the Australian Copyright Act that allow educational institution and government departments to pay royalties for radio and TV programs they use or copy, and also collects royalties from pay TV companies who re-transmit free-to-air programs.

At the time of filing the court proceeding, the AWG issued at statement saying: “Based on Screenrights’ own figures, they appear to have collected over $50 million in script royalties over the past 20 years, yet AWG’s Australian members may have received as little as $350,000.”

The guild and its collecting agency alleged Screenrights had engaged in numerous breaches of statutory duty and trust, misleading or deceptive conduct and interference with contractual relations. Screenrights said it totally rejected these claims and said that it was continuing to pay royalties as per the law.

The terms of the settlement deed are confidential, and all parties have declined to give any further public comment on the matter.

In a joint statement, the parties said they welcomed the settlement and that the dispute has been resolved amicably. All said they looked forward “to working together to ensure that the interests of local and international scriptwriters are protected and all rightsholders are paid their entitlements equitably, efficiently and accurately.”

Last week, Screenrights said it had distributed more than $42.8 million dollars to more than 4,400 individual members in the 2017-18 financial year.