Screenwriters Association has proposed changes in writers' contracts, says committee member Anjum Rajabali

The Screenwriters Association said release forms from almost 15 production houses were analysed for them to then draft an ideal contract.

FP Staff January 15, 2020 14:06:49 IST
Screenwriters Association has proposed changes in writers' contracts, says committee member Anjum Rajabali

The Screenwriters Association (SWA) has proposed amendments in writers' contracts to ease members' convenience in understanding the terms without the legal jargon confusing them.

The norm is to have a writer sign a release form when they submit their scripts to a production house or producer. According to Mumbai Mirror, this document binds the two parties to "honour the sanctity of the script," but SWA lawyers say it usually excuses the producer of all legal obligations, leaving the writer vulnerable.

Screenwriters Association has proposed changes in writers contracts says committee member Anjum Rajabali

Anjum Rajabali. Image from Facebook

An SWA lawyer, Anamika Jha, tells Mirror they analysed these release forms from around 15 production houses, and found several clauses that were unfair to writers, and would not stand in the court of law.

Writer Anjum Rajabali, who is an executive committee member, explains, "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 I later see the same things in his house."

Jha further says they have now drafted an ideal contract, which does not put either party's interests in jeopardy. The producers are asked to honour confidentiality, respect copyright, and remove redundant clauses. She adds they have reached out to producers and production houses, asking for their support.

The new contract will also safeguard the interests of new writers, who are often left with no option but to comply with the conditions set by producers. Rajabali says if these production houses do not agree to their request, they will approach the companies' CEOs to work out something that is mutually beneficial. Bikas Mishra, SWA's head of media sub-committee, points out the request cannot be legally enforced as it directly involves only the writer and producer, not the association.

Rajabali says while young writers may not find the new contract convenient, as they might not want to turn down opportunity, they will have to take a stand. He says just like they will not accept a meager amount for their intellectual property, they should also turn down unfair contracts.

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