WGA Collects Over $4 Million In Settlement With Amazon Over Unpaid Residuals

The WGA has settled an arbitration against Amazon, collecting more than $4 million in underpaid residuals and interest owed to 37 screenwriters on 31 films produced or acquired by Amazon. The settlement comes in the wake of a similar “self-dealing” arbitration that the guild recently won against Netflix, in which the guild collected $42 million in unpaid residuals on a total of 140 Netflix-produced films.

“Like Netflix, Amazon had been systematically undervaluing imputed license fees on theatrical films where it was both the producer and the distributor,” WGA West leaders said Wednesday in a communique to members. “Amazon even underpaid residuals on films it acquired from independent producers, imputing a low license fee for these films rather than paying the writer a residual of 1.2% of the actual license fee paid to the producer, as required by the MBA (Minimum Basic Agreement).”

The guild filed arbitration claims against Amazon in 2020 and a hearing had been set for May 2022.

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“Like Netflix, Amazon had argued that the guild should accept the substandard formula Netflix negotiated with DGA and SAG-AFTRA,” WGA leaders told their members. After the Netflix arbitration, in which the arbitrator ruled that the license fees should be 111% of the gross production budgets, the guild noted that “Amazon agreed to settle the claims and apply this formula to its self-produced films. Amazon also agreed to pay residuals of 1.2% of the actual license fee paid to the producer on its acquired films.”

Under terms of the Amazon settlement, the guild said it will collect a total of $4 million for Amazon screenwriters, in which Amazon will pay $3.3 million to 19 writers on 13 self-produced films, which represents $2.1 million in residuals and $1.2 million in interest. The guild said that Amazon will also pay residuals and interest owed on 18 films it acquired, totaling $767,000 for 18 writers, which represents 458,126 in residuals and $308,874 in interest.

“We will continue our enforcement work to ensure that streamers pay writers fairly for the content we create, as required by the MBA,” guild leaders said.