WGA Screenwriting Credit System - Arbitration

Arbitration

Some Guild members have criticized the arbitration process. The Guild, however, have won most lawsuits against them, and in 2002 the WGA membership overwhelmingly rejected changes to the arbitration procedures.

A chief objection is the secrecy of the process. Identities of the arbiters are secret, so concerned parties have no way to object to the qualifications or possible biases of their judges. Also, any explanation of the decision itself is secret, even from the parties to the dispute, so they have no way to know why they lost or won credit. Secret rationales make an appeal impossible, and define no precedent for future disputes. There is an appeal panel, but it only concerns itself with technical details as to whether the decision followed the rules.

Guild members have criticized the way the process handles existing material, such as a book, that is adapted to film. Generally, the first writer to work on such a project naturally appropriates the most cinematic elements of the story. Other teams that subsequently work on the script, however, may base their work on the original text rather than that first draft. Barry Levinson, the director of Wag the Dog and a disputant over screenwriting credit for the film (which was adapted from a novel), says:

If a writer creates an idea from scratch, that's one thing. Even if the script is given to other writers and rewritten, that first writer created the seeds of that idea and he or she should get some regard. But for a script from a book, it's different.

Even if little of the initial efforts remain in the final script, the original writer is often awarded credit because he or she was first on the scene.

Read more about this topic:  WGA Screenwriting Credit System

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