WGA, Acts of God and Force Majeur

Variety is reporting that last Friday, ABC Studios notified nearly two dozen writers and nonwriting producers it is terminating their overall deals as a result of the WGA strike. (Source) Although the article headline describes ABC’ actions as “Force majeure ax falls at ABC Studios” it doesn’t get into a whole lot of detail what that means.

A “Force Majeur” clause in a contract is a provision that allows a party not to perform under a contract as a result of circumstances beyond a party’s control. This is a little more expansive than “Acts of God” terminology which typically refers to natural forces being the catalyst behind non-performance under a contract. In either instance, a party to the contract is claiming it is impossible for them to perform under the deal because of circumstances beyond their control.

According to Variety,

“The ongoing strike has had a significant detrimental impact on development and production. so we are forced to make the difficult decision to release a number of talented, respected individuals from their development deals,” ABC Studios said in a statement late Friday.

Well, it looks like ABC is going to argue that the WGA strike was an event beyond its control and hence, it is impossible for ABC to perform under the various wirters’ contracts. If that is true, termination of the agreement might be appropriate. However, I guess that begs the question, does ABC have any control over the WGA contracts with the WGA writers and the overall collective bargaining agreement? If it does, ABC could be SOL.

(Read the full story here)

An Associated Press January 15, 2008 follow up:

Report: 4 studios cancel TV writers’ contracts
Move is possible concession that current season cannot be saved

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2 responses to “WGA, Acts of God and Force Majeur

  • Tasia Drake

    I haven’t been following this strike very closly because I frankly don’t have a lot of time to watch TV. But, Seeing that these 4 networks have cancelled many of these writers contracts appears to be quite a devistation to the writers, the actors, the networks and the broad general public. It seems that some kind of negotiation could’ve taken place instead of such a drastic measure. And I wonder what laws and regulations were violated when they just up and cancelled these contracts???? I am curious to find out.
    Tasia Drake PAR 118 student

  • Susanne Joslin

    I find it interesting to read that “ABC is going to argue that the WGA strike was an event beyond its control.” My understanding of the strike, and this may be where the problem is, is that the writer’s are striking because they were not given fair royalties. If this is the case, how is this NOT in ABC’s control? It is also my understanding that there was no negotiation, it was the writer’s asking for royalties, and the networks saying “no”. As the networks are seeing now, the writer’s are important the shows they produce.

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