In a setback for the Writers Guild of America West, an arbitrator is siding with film studios in rejecting a grievance brought by the guild over free script rewrites.

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter)--In a setback for the Writers Guild of America West, an arbitrator is siding with film studios in rejecting a grievance brought by the guild over free script rewrites.

The ruling by Anita Knowlton capped a five-year arbitration that included 35 days of hearings on 18 motion picture projects submitted by the guild as proof that studios routinely take advantage of writers during the script-revision process.

Knowlton found no evidence that the studios were liable to pay damages for violating Article 13.A of their minimum basic agreement.

"The language of the [minimum basic agreement], bargaining history, past practice and agency law support the company's contractual interpretation and require rejection of the guild's theories," Knowlton concluded in a 91-page ruling.

The arbitration centered on film projects culled from four studio defendants: Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros., 20th Century Fox Film and Universal Pictures.

The two sides agreed on several points: that scriptwriting is a collaborative process; that no extra pay is due when a writer voluntarily submits material to a producer or director; and that writers are contractually entitled to be paid when the script is officially delivered to the studio.

It's what happens before script delivery that concerns the guild, because some writers fear their careers will be jeopardized if they refuse to do rewrites or complain about the process.