From The New York Times:
It’s a dream tucked in the backs of many journalists’ minds: the article they write becomes a blockbuster movie and they reap a healthy share of the profits, a walk on the red carpet and — who knows? — maybe even an Oscar.
At Condé Nast magazines like Wired, Vanity Fair and The New Yorker, that wish has become reality for a small but steady number of writers. Condé Nast articles led to the movie “Argo,” which so far has generated $166 million in worldwide box-office sales, “Eat Pray Love,” which made $204 million in global sales and “Brokeback Mountain,” which brought in $178 million.
But now, Condé Nast, whose magazines are battling a punishing business environment, wants to capture more of the film and television profits, which previously went to writers who owned the rights to these works. The new contracts have angered writers and their agents who argue that it’s another cut at their already rapidly shrinking compensation.
“It doesn’t give authors the option or the alternative to go elsewhere for their movie and television rights, and therefore there’s no competition,” said Jan Constantine, general counsel for the Authors Guild who recently advised an agent negotiating one of these contracts.
According to copies of the various contracts provided and described to The New York Times, those exclusive rights ranged from 30 days to one year. The contracts also show that if Condé Nast decides to option the article, writers receive $2,500 to $5,000 for a 12-month option. If an article is developed into a major feature film, writers receive no more than 1 percent or $150,000 toward the purchase price.
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Many writers for Condé Nast magazines like The New Yorker work under one-year contracts that lack basic employee benefits like a 401(k) retirement plan or health insurance, but they are allowed to keep the rights to their work. (By contrast, newspapers typically own the full rights to articles published by their employees.)
Some agents have warned writers not to sign the contracts because they chip away further at their income. But other writers have signed the agreements because they don’t want to lose the chance to have their byline appear in The New Yorker or Vanity Fair.
Link to the rest at The New York Times and thanks to Keith for the tip.