Condé Nast Moves to Seize, Lowball Freelancers’ Film/TV Rights

Breaking with longstanding industry practices, Condé Nast is seeking to cut itself in on its writers’ potential film and television deals. In the process, it would slice writers’ share of potential film and television income to freelance works appearing in its magazines by more than 50%. Its new boilerplate contract — introduced last year — would give the company a free, exclusive 12-month right to option dramatic and multimedia rights. Under the contract, Condé Nast could choose to extend that option by up to 24 months for a modest sum.

Should Condé Nast exercise the option, the writer would, under boilerplate terms, be paid just 1% of the film or tv production budget. Negotiated film and tv agreements typically pay the author 2.5% or more of the production budget.

Agents and writers are pushing back, with some success. Since Condé Nast owns such leading publications as Bon Appétit, GQ, The New Yorker, Self, Vanity Fair, Vogue, and Wired, among others, authors with significant negotiating clout are affected. Reportedly, some of those authors have been able to substantially alter or eliminate the option terms of the new boilerplate agreement.

Christine Haughney of the New York Times writes about the contract and dispute today in an article that quotes Jan Constantine, the Authors Guild’s general counsel.

Comments: more
  • ERICA JONG, author, poet

    GREED and more Greed. Make all writers into unpaid “content providers” for the corporateocracy. Don’t pay them–tell them it’s PR. Then pay the bosses millions.
    No wonder the KASDASHIANS are everywhere. WRITING IS NO LONGER A PROFESSION.

  • Artandownership

    Union. Now.

  • Outraged

    Thank God someone finally wrote about this; Conde has been sending these offensive things out since last spring. The Times article hit the nail on the head; by not submitting the work to the marketplace, everyone makes less money, And Dawn Ostroff simply doesn’t have the chops to make projects like these actually happen and everyone out in Los Angeles knows it. All it does is ensure the minimum price for one’s work and the maximum chance that the project won’t be made. And there’s no provision for possible retaining the author of the piece as a writer of the first-pass script. Lose-lose all the way

    Others have tried the same at various times: Talk Magazine and the New York Times which at some point was demanding a “seat at the table” when a freelancer landed a film deal. One can only hope the agents seriously take on Conde Nast in a meaningful way such that the contract is changed for ALL rather than resorting to the separate-contracts-for-agented-writers tactic that most of these publishing houses have that discriminate against the non-agented writer with crummier terms. One shouldn’t have to be forced to pay 15 percent to an agent on a not very lucrative story to begin with just so one doesn’t get raped on film and Internet rights by Conde Nast.

  • Dawn Siskie

    Absolutely unfair !!!!!

  • Viewingwithalarm

    Have never considered Conde Nast anything but antagonistic to author’s interests.  They  successfully conditioned permission to use a handful of quotations from their 1960s era archives on A) banning all electronic publication of an academic book on the history of one of their contributors and B) reviewing/approving all mentions of the New Yorker in the book.  At one point, they even wanted the right to review and approve the entire manuscript , not just the part concerning the New Yorker, but my academic publisher managed to confine the “approval” process just to direct-mention material.