Daily Show writer explains writers' strike -- if digital content isn't worth anything, how come Viacom is suing YouTube for $1 billion?

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48 Responses to “Daily Show writer explains writers' strike -- if digital content isn't worth anything, how come Viacom is suing YouTube for $1 billion?”

  1. LucasSheehan says:

    Teresa,
    Of all the arguments here BoinkBoink’s are very convincing. Thorough, well thought out, presented well, and logically quite sound. I have no more insight into the strike than any other simple consumer of Hollywood’s products. Admittedly non-expert but curious, why would the comments be unpublished? I cringe at the loss of history in an interesting stream of controversy. Just feeling a ting of censorship fear.

    Or its my inner troll, but the doctors say the pills should kick in soon.

  2. Jun-Dai says:

    I love how much the media companies use the creators to justify their stance and behavior towards piracy and at the same time resist so strongly any attempts by the creators to expand their share of the monetary value of the content. They are in a tough spot trying to defend their large portion of the revenue for what is a decreasingly important role in the distribution of content, and I think at this point they are using whatever tactics possible to slow down the inevitable.

    Or to put it another way: if these creators don’t get any share of the revenue from Internet and DVD, why should I respect the corporations’ right to earn revenue from me?

  3. Teresa Nielsen Hayden / Moderator says:

    Lucas, I’ll agree that the comments are very well written, and superficially convincing.

    Are you familiar with the concept of astroturf? Not the fake grass kind; I mean paying writers to pretend to be random internet users while they post material favorable to whoever’s paying them.

    It’s real, and there’s an increasing amount of it out there, especially on high-traffic sites. Advertising is expensive. Writers are cheap. Astroturf sneaks past our resistance to paid advertising, which makes it very advantageous indeed.

    I don’t know how good an ear you have for prose, but an argument someone is framing for the first time sounds different from a variant version knocked out by a writer who’s already written multiple versions of it.

    I may be right about BoinkBoink, or I may be wrong. Either way, it’s my job to notice it, and ask.

  4. Squashy says:

    If you can’t see that the writer has a more legitimate claim to be called the “creator” of a piece of entertainment than a set designer or grip, then you’re being willfully stupid. A set designer doesn’t have to worry about if their uninspiring set design will sink the show. A grip doesn’t have to worry about where they will get their next idea from, or if they’re losing their touch.

    The writers are the font from which everything else flows. Without good writing, you’ve got nothing. It’s as simple as that. If anyone thinks otherwise it only goes to show that writers are underappreciated.

  5. LucasSheehan says:

    I understand. I was not aware of the tactic of astroturf. My initial reaction is “wickedly clever” (when it first started) and “unfortunately unavoidable” as ad makers and PR folks old reliable tools fail in the face the intertubes ability to foster sharing.

    Cool to know there is an experienced literary knight jousting for Boing’s court. :-)

    Thanks for the reply, and in retrospect the argument does seem terribly clean if not practiced and polished. Though I must say I have found those who can do it right the first time, and they scare me a bit.

  6. Teresa Nielsen Hayden / Moderator says:

    That only works if someone spots it and points it out to the rest of the readers.

    I did that once to a chunk of astroturf that got posted in a comment thread on my own weblog. Months later, someone who was researching the guy told me that the person who posted that comment was the same one who was outed by Michael Moore for altering the Wikipedia entries on Michael Moore and Sicko, and is a well-known employee of the Heritage Foundation.

  7. EnglishNerd says:

    BoinkBoink

    You’re confusing writers with employees. They aren’t. They are artists under contract, and they want a new contract. If I’m in the service industry I’m hired to do whatever the company wants. If I’m a show writer it means the show producers think that what I create is worth whatever amount of money my contract says. The difference is in the role I’m supposed to play. As a writer, I’m a (co)creator of the product, while as an employee I’m a parrot of a product already created.

  8. LucasSheehan says:

    I’ve had another thought on this. Couldn’t it be arguable that the addition of comments paid/unpaid in an astroturf context could be of value in that they express the inherent importance of the topic at hand. If someone goes to the lengths, would it not be of value to see that kind of effort being applied.

    Of course this all relies on knowing the sources and motivations of the participants, and being able to at some level categorize the content. An almost impossible and perhaps self defeating approach to whats here.

    Either way its effected the way I look at this medium now. Positively I think….

  9. Beaver says:

    It’s not like they are in negotiations over 1 simple thing. Is it at all possible that the writers, amongst their list of demands, have something in there that just isn’t realistic?

    Again I am all for making sure people get what they deserve, but its funny to see people so blindly side with the WGA as if they have been working for cookies up until this point.

  10. slgalt says:

    AMPTP is an alliance of giant corporate conglomerates, they can put all the ads they want in the paper, doesn’t make it true.

    They are lying to someone, is it the writers or the shareholders?

    Misleading investors is federal crime:
    http://unitedhollywood.blogspot.com/2007/11/misleading-investors-is-federal-crime.html

  11. Jun-Dai says:

    Again I am all for making sure people get what they deserve, but its funny to see people so blindly side with the WGA as if they have been working for cookies up until this point.

    It is kind of funny, but it’s also understandable. Most of us don’t know the WGA at all, so we give them the benefit of the doubt. We do, however, know enough about the people they’re up against to not give them the benefit of the doubt.

    That said, I would welcome some reasoned discussion on the actual terms of the contract proposals under dispute, but I haven’t seen that anywhere (and certainly not here).

  12. of the w says:

    Oh boo hoo! The poor abused writers want more royalties and whatever else. I could care less if they are out of money for half a year between gigs. They get paid way more than anyone else (except the actors), so suck it up and stop buying $5 coffees. The makeup artists and the costume designers had just as much to do with the making of a sought after DVD flick as the god damn writer. Do the set designers, or camera operators get royalties? No really, I don’t know do they? If not, then why don’t they stand around with little signs and $5 coffees and poo poo their sorry lot in life.

    The way the “work/employment” system works is you make something or provide some service and then people give you some green backs. It is just that simple. If you suck or your employer runs out of work for you, your ass gets to sit at home in a cold, dark, foodless house ’til your lazy fat ass can get enough energy worked up to find a new job. It is just that simple. This is why I hate writers and photographers. You pay them for a service and then they keep coming back with their nasty little hand out. “Oh you want to sell my plot on a DVD… give me more.” “Oh you want another print of a picture you paid me to take… I want more! You can’t have the negatives and if you scan the picture you paid me to take your ass will be in court.” It does not matter that you already paid them for their services they still think they need more for the entire life of the product?

    Where else does this messed up system work? Even in other art fields this system is crap. If you make a painting or a ceramic bowl and sell it the deal is done. You gave them something they gave you something, end of story. If the new owner chooses to photograph it for a book about their collection the artist does not see a dime. Every guest to a museum does not have 4¢ of their visit going to each artist who’s work they placed an eye ball on. This is crap! Total crap!

    If this system works then I want every nut tightener and widget maker to be paid once for their work and then again for rest of their life based on the durability and success of said bolt tightening or widget. If you fix a machine, lets say a printing press, do you get paid for every sheet of paper your hard work helped the owner of that machine produce? Hell no! I am a graphic designer, do I get paid every time my ad gets placed in a new publication? You can bet your sweet ass it does not! Does Ford get paid a few extra pennies for every fat ass your Fiesta hauls to Taco Bell? Shit no! Then why do writers and photographers think that after the studios or I pay them for a good or service we do not own that good?

    Don’t get me wrong, I am not a flag waver for the money-grubbing, snobbish asshole movie companies I just hate them for a whole different set of reasons. Let me try some logic on you… If writers did not need royalties on every DVD and dish towel based on some line they wrote for some fancy picture show, the cost the DVD could be reduced. Makes sense. Then if the cost of a DVD or a showing of a TV show costs less because the studios are not paying silly royalties they can charge less for the advertising. If the advertising costs less the manufacturers hawking products can sell those products for less and raise worker wages. This all seems logical to me. So I can now conclude the reason people in this country are starving and can not afford food is because over paid writers need to have $5 coffee and royalties on reruns of Sanford and Son.

    Just think what all us common folk could afford if those fake-ass actors did not need royalties and million dollar pay checks! Do your job, get paid, go home… shut the hell up.

  13. Beaver says:

    In people vs. conglomerate situations I like people…. As a person I generally side with people…as do most other persons…peoples…but people are stupid, in general.

    I just think that a lot of them get mixed up, how tech savvy are the people negotiating this contract, who is consulting them on whats appropriate…. should boing boing ever have its ad revenue sliced into by the WGA for posting a link to a piece of content, or embedding it?….

    Just because the fat cats tried to sue youtube for a billion dollars doesn’t mean that they are making a billion dollars….I think everyone agreed way back that youtube pulling clips of the Daily Show sucked….and that the billion dollar lawsuit was completely unfounded. Now the writers are saying “it is worth a billion and we want to get paid every time someone online sees something we’ve written”

    no one agreed with that last year. Plus I garauntee every person in this post as at one time or another taken money out of the WGA’s pocket personally….but now that people are lined up against a big bad corporation we side with them immediately.

    I think that neither party is all or even half right, and somehow we should all learn a lesson from this….and use linux or something.

  14. sirdook says:

    EnglishNerd,

    Have you ever been an employee? There are certainly jobs where one is paid to be merely a cog in a machine, where creativity is neither required nor, often, desired. But there are plenty of jobs other than ‘writer’ or ‘actor’ or ‘artist’ in which people are hired to create things and where people are hired because the employer thinks what the employee creates is worth the agreed compensation package.
    The idea that there’s a sharp line between ‘writer: the art-ist – great force of creativity’ and ‘employee: the mere drone who does what he’s told’ is both silly and insulting.
    Don’t get me wrong – I’m with the writers on this one. Given that their standard terms of compensation rely on residuals, they’d be stupid not to demand residuals from online content. The rationale behind the residuals system applies equally well to streaming video. But BoinkBoink is also correct – it’s not a fundamental right of nature (or even a fundamental legal right) that writers get residuals.

  15. Letter J says:

    I arrived late to the party, but I wanted to state that I agree with everything BoinkBoink has stated so far.

  16. Grim Beefer says:

    “The makeup artists and the costume designers had just as much to do with the making of a sought after DVD flick as the god damn writer.” …

    Maybe if the only media you pay attention to are ridiculous action movies you could make a claim like this. However, any decent drama, comedy, or talk show, to name a few genres, will be heavily dependent on the writers. Bad costumes or makeup can certainly affect a work’s credibility, but this is really only a possible issue in certain genres (makeup and costume design for the Daily Show can’t be that complex). Good writing, on the other hand, is a linchpin that under-girds everything made. I would dare say that good writing alone can carry a film, and this is generally not the case for costumes, makeup, music score, etc. This is the reason that people enjoy stage plays, which sometimes eliminate all of these secondary qualities as being superfluous. Of course writing is also heavily dependent on acting, but, again, I think that good writing can help bad acting, but not the other way around.

    A lot of people seem to be making the claim that writer’s don’t deserve to be paid any higher than they already are, and that “who are they to demand higher wages when their peers in different crafts remain comparatively underpaid?”. I think this kind of misses the point. Ideally key grips, makeup artists, etc. should, themselves, be organizing into negotiations/possible strikes to gain proper compensation in kind. While I agree that the payment is lopsided, my conclusion is the inverse. It’s not that I think the writer’s are overpaid, it’s that the rest are underpaid. Studios make more than enough money to pay people what they deserve. The people that actually create movies should be the ones that get the profit, not some suit, and this holds true for everything else as well.

  17. musicpsych says:

    The idea is to get viewers to watch the programing when it runs on TV.

    The funny thing in all of this is that ultimately, it makes no difference to the networks if I watch any TV at all. I have no Nielsen input whatsoever. Ironically, watching video online is a truer measure of viewership than the outdated Nielsen system.

  18. flickersticks says:

    The best part of the writers strike is the fact that they are really pointing out how ridiculous all these old execs are…these old dudes probably barely understand how the culture has progressed and media has evolved since their youthful romps in the penny arcades… The trouble is, these dudes seem to be more than happy to collect the revenue from something they don’t seem to understand, but they are just appalled when they are addressed on the issue and asked to share this new media revenue with its CREATORS.

    In my ideal world, ten years from now there won’t be any such thing as an ill informed old man executive dictacting what happens to the talent, acting only a sponge to soak up the revenue…is there really any need for these guys??? The writers may not have gotten a settlement yet but they have sure got the upper hand as far as the public is concerned.

  19. Brian Carnell says:

    Wow, writers want a cut of digital content…so, you mean, people actually *pay* for digital content? I thought you had to get all your digital content for free through Torrents and Usenet?

  20. Buns and Chou Chou says:

    Thanks for posting that video it was great. You can really see how that could have been a daily show segment, the same tone was there, so it was kind of fun to see the behind the camera view of it.

  21. moifee says:

    Every published artist in America is paid with residuals and royalties: authors, musicians, painters (assuming there are published books and prints), and actors.

    When you call out against “millionaire writers getting paid twice!” you’re just kinda showing your don’t understand the system by which artists are paid in America – which is OK. It IS a little weird.

    But the fact of the matter is that they are the CREATORS of this material – not employees. They surrender the copyright to their original work to the studio in exchange for these residuals.

    And while the studios do carry the finacial risk for producing it, they make hefty profits in the hudreds of millions of dollars while the writers are paid very modestly. Most of these writers are NOT wealthy.

    The writers are just asking for a slightly larger percentage – not larger amounts of upfront cash. They just want to be paid more if the project sells more. That’s it. Right now, they earn less than one third of one percent on every DVD and digital downlaod and nothing on streaming video. They are asking for a higher percentage – still under one percent. (Studio profit margins are somewhere in the 40% range.)

    That’s not exactly greedy, is it?

  22. bobkat says:

    The worst part of this whole strike is the now widespread use of my least favorite neologism, the word “webisodes.”

    UGH!!!

  23. thebulfrog says:

    I dare say my favorite part of this strike is videos like this and knowing far more of these are on the way the longer this lasts. This is a collection of some of the wittiest people out there all suddenly with nothing better to do then create videos that are not only good for their own sake, but for workers everywhere. Already, between the strike in NYC by the stagehands and the upcoming SAG and DAG strikes this mentality is starting to spread. It’s nice to see this sort of active rebellion becoming popular, and hopefully coming closer to evening the playing field, again.

  24. boinkboink says:

    The trouble is, these dudes seem to be more than happy to collect the revenue from something they don’t seem to understand, but they are just appalled when they are addressed on the issue and asked to share this new media revenue with its CREATORS.

    I have no problem with collective bargaining for greater remuneration but this royalty ‘entitlement’ mentality is indefensible. The writers are no more entitled to royalties — from the Internet or otherwise — than the grips, sound technicians, or other ‘creators’ of the show, or than the rest of the employed world is when creating products: A software programmer wouldn’t be entitled to royalties from every copy of a piece of software he wrote while working for a company.

    They are perfectly entitled to try and negotiate for royalties but they are not wronged if they don’t get them.

    The ‘arguments’ in that video were logically baseless.

  25. hpavc says:

    The iTunes store, Netflix, TiVo, Google/YouTube, Al Gore’s NWI buy, BBC streaming … so close.

    “This is ridiculous. Even if I could take off, I’d never get past the tractor beam.”

    What we need is something to get that tractor beam out of commission.

  26. HumbleNarrator says:

    This strike is affecting more than just traditional entertainment — professional wrestling is now in shambles!

    http://www.humblenarrator.com/2007/11/15/wwe-aficionados-decry-lack-of-spontaneity-during-writers-strike/

  27. EnglishNerd says:

    Sirdook

    Fair enough. I bought into BoinkBoink’s false dichotomy. I’ve been an employee where I get to be creative and that’s what I’m hired for, and I’ve been an employee where all I’m supposed to do is parrot information. In my haste I ignored the job I like better…

  28. lucia_engel says:

    From this article (Ron Moore, BSG) http://tv.ign.com/articles/833/833633p1.html
    what I gathered is that no one was paid for these webisodes (ie. 10x 2-3 minute of original content with storylines, sets, cast and crew), which were specifically made for internet during the off-season.

  29. Drhaggis says:

    @BoinkBoink

    These aren’t royalties, these are residuals. Residuals represent deferred payment for the work they created.

  30. Kevitivity says:

    To be fair, nobody is saying digital content isn’t worth anything. The industry claims that the writers are already properly compensated. I’m not saying the industry is right – just knocking down a straw man.

    As much as I despise unions, especially when it comes to skilled workers, it is fun watching hollyweird take it in the pants…

  31. Bentcorner says:

    The problem I have with the writer’s demands is that they always want their cut off the top. It doesn’t matter if online content will eventually make any money or not. They want something not based on net earnings, but on the gross.

  32. wn says:

    Seems the problem is really simple. It’s an issue of Hollywood exec lying about profits, using ‘industry standards’ to avoid being sued over what would otherwise be blatantly illegal.

    So we should just do outside audits of movie/tv studios. Pay independent auditors to use real accounting practices instead of hollywood book cooking.

    When profits are honestly reported people can sign whatever contracts they want.

  33. kevatron says:

    Correction – The writer’s name is Jason Ross, not Rothman. See here: http://imdb.com/name/nm1413217/

  34. Nick Mathewson says:

    @BoinkBoink:

    Suppose that a programmer in the 1980s negotiated a deal where his salary was lower than it might have been otherwise, but where he was supposed to get a percentage of shrinkwrap sales media. If, after online sales took off in the 90s and later, his bosses then told him that they weren’t going to give him any money for those sales, I would think that any sensible programmer would demand a new contract.

    (Now, there are good reasons that this kind of deal isn’t the kind of deal that usually gets negotiated in software, and they’re pretty interesting reasons. They say a lot about the difference between scripts and programs.)

    @BentCorner:

    What do you think of the writers’ claims that the accounting practices of the studios are deliberately designed to make profitable shows seem unprofitable, in order to avoid paying out shares of the profits?

    For example, according to John Bowman, the system that studios uses means that The Simpsons is not “profitable” by their calculations, despite having been. (See here.) If that’s how the studios want to calculate profit, what kind of fool would take a share of the profit?

  35. boinkboink says:

    Every published artist in America is paid with residuals and royalties: authors, musicians, painters (assuming there are published books and prints), and actors.

    Historical custom does not entitlement make.

    When you call out against “millionaire writers getting paid twice!” you’re just kinda showing your don’t understand the system by which artists are paid in America – which is OK. It IS a little weird.

    It is not a lack of understanding, it is the fact that there is no entitlement for this type of remuneration scheme for this class of employees (and perhaps any other).

    But the fact of the matter is that they are the CREATORS of this material – not employees. They surrender the copyright to their original work to the studio in exchange for these residuals.

    I can say the same pretty much the same thing for every non-physical-labor employee (which I can designate as a ‘creator’ if I feel like it). They, almost universally, do not receive, nor expect, royalties or residuals. (By the way using CAPS does not make your ARGUMENT more forceful).

    And while the studios do carry the finacial risk for producing it, they make hefty profits in the hudreds of millions of dollars while the writers are paid very modestly. Most of these writers are NOT wealthy.

    I wholeheartedly support welfare but call a spade a spade. And justify why it should be their employers that supplies this welfare directly to them. Moreover, these guys are not starving in the streets: we should probably start elsewhere if we are trying to correct income disparity. And if it’s my pity the WGA wants they won’t get it.

    The writers are just asking for a slightly larger percentage – not larger amounts of upfront cash. They just want to be paid more if the project sells more. That’s it.

    They can want whatever they like. They can try to negotiate whatever they want. My objection is that they are portraying royalties as their god given right. It’s not.

    Right now, they earn less than one third of one percent on every DVD and digital download and nothing on streaming video.

    The horror. Welcome to the rest of the world which makes 0 percent on the products they produce.

    They are asking for a higher percentage – still under one percent. (Studio profit margins are somewhere in the 40% range.)

    This logic would be laughed at in any other industry. Because the company they work for makes $BIG_BUCKS does not per se entitle the employees to anything.

    That’s not exactly greedy, is it?

    No, it’s just standard “I wan’t more money” and well, who doesn’t? But don’t try to frame it as some kind of struggle against injustice or a question of entitlement.

  36. Kurt says:

    Bentcorner, that probably because Hollywood cooks the books so that practically nothing ever makes a net profit, according to them. The wikipedia entry on Hollywood Accounting is a good start. I’d be asking for a percentage of the gross, too.

  37. Mark Gritter says:

    BentCorner @9:

    Many, many projects mysteriously never manage to make a net profit, no matter how successful they are. Google around for “monkey points”.

    According to Hollywood accounting, The Simpsons is not in profits. How can we trust that kind of bookkeeping? What other business but ours has the accounting term, “monkey points?” — John Bowman

    If I were in the writer’s shoes, I’d demand payment based on gross sales or unit volume as well— the industry simply can’t be trusted to report profit in a fair and transparent fashion.

  38. slgalt says:

    This video was made by an anonymous writer but sure is in the spirit of the daily show! All the corporate fat cats bragging on TV.

    Voices of Uncertainty:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8a37uqd5vTw

    Oh and to address some of the comments, these are deferred payments – the studios never like to pay people up front, this was a way they could defer the costs. It is similar a book writer getting royalties, the more copies sold, the more money they make. But tv and film writers have to assign over copyright to these corporations. And the residuals also go towards health and pension funds of the workers in the industry.

  39. anangbhai says:

    Actually, a lot of people in Hollywood do try to get independent auditing. That whole tiff New Line had with Peter Jackson was because he simply wanted to get an independent audit of their books for the Fellowship of the Ring profits. He ended up being dropped from the Hobbit film.
    That’s why people with leverage try to get percentages on the entire box office and not the profits. The profits can be fuddled, but the box office reports are usually accurate.

  40. boinkboink says:

    These aren’t royalties, these are residuals. Residuals represent deferred payment for the work they created.

    Wikipedia says:

    In business, a residual payment is one of an ongoing stream of payments for the completion of past achievements. The entertainment industry use of the word refers to a payment made to the creator of performance art (or the performer in the work) for subsequent showings or screenings.

    That sure sounds like a royalty to me. But that’s just arguing over semantics. The effect is the same, the point remains.

  41. boinkboink says:

    Suppose that a programmer in the 1980s negotiated a deal where his salary was lower than it might have been otherwise, but where he was supposed to get a percentage of shrinkwrap sales media. If, after online sales took off in the 90s and later, his bosses then told him that they weren’t going to give him any money for those sales, I would think that any sensible programmer would demand a new contract.

    Yes, but that is not the point I was making is it? The situation you describe is very generic: “Imagine someone negotiates a contract that, due to unforeseen circumstances, is no longer favorable to them”. Of course anyone should be able to renegotiate their contract if they are no longer happy with it. I said as much in my original post. But they do not have a ‘right’ to royalties/residuals: There would be no injustice if the media companies refused to agree to a contract with residuals.

  42. Beaver says:

    It’s really easy to think that Studios are run by money hungry old out of touch execs and all writers are hip and cool and underpaid..”Those fat cats want to keep all the loot!”

    but remember Micheal Bay movies have writers, as do Bruckheimer movies…

    Not everyone writes for the daily show and not every writer striking really knows what its about.

    The Alliance of Motion Pictures & Television Producers (AMPTP)….yeah it sounds slimey but still…they have sent an open letter to the LA and NY times with their stance….which is not just “WE WANT ALL THE FUCKING MONEY”

    read it here
    http://www.amptp.org/index.html

    some interesting things….

    “””
    The Writers Guild is proposing to change the formulas for digital downloading. For electronic selI-through (like buying a movie on iTunes), the Guild is seeking at least a 700 percent increase over what writers currently receive, and more than a 200 percent increase over what they receive for Internet “pay per view.”
    “””

    Now the writers could be getting paid squat, a 700% increase of squat is doable…but I live in LA and I work in the same circles….no one living in LA who is not digging ditches and makes a living as a writer is making squat…not saying they don’t deserve more and that negotiations aren’t in order….but if they are asking for revenue from potential Tivo replays it gets kinda sketchy….for example…
    “””
    A second issue of concern for writers and producers is this: what happens when content is streamed over the Internet for free?

    The AMPTP has offered to pay writers a percentage of the revenues the producer receives from licensing streamed content on the Internet. However, the Writers Guild is asking that writers get a percentage of what the Internet site owners receive in advertising revenues connected with the streaming content, even if producers are getting none of that money themselves.
    “””

  43. flickersticks says:

    @boinkboink:

    Who, then, deserves the revenue generated from new media? There is no ignoring it, and it will only continue to grow. There has got to be a boiling point (like now) in which the creators of the content finally demand some kind of renegotiation and acknoledgement.

  44. Bentcorner says:

    @ Everybody

    I understand the goofy way that Hollywood does it’s accounting. It’s just that I’ve read a lot said about how much money TV shows are going to be making on the Internet. Writers want a percentage of the revenue from the advertising featured on streaming video even if streaming video is a financial loser for the networks. I think that’s why they treat it was a promotion. The idea is to get viewers to watch the programing when it runs on TV.

    According to what I’ve read on the WGA.org website, the writers believe that TV and the Internet are same thing. That the Internet *is* TV.

    Nothing could be farther from the truth.

  45. jere7my says:

    Of course it’s not a “fundamental right” that all writers should get paid residuals, and no WGA member would say so. Work-for-hire, in which the writer gets paid a flat fee, is a standard contractual agreement, and that can work out just fine for everyone concerned.

    What the WGA does is exchange part of that up-front fee for a share of future profits. If the work they help to create does well, they get more money; they’re taking a risk based on the quality of their work. Sure, they could negotiate a different system that didn’t pay residuals — but then they’d be entitled to a larger up-front fee, just like an employee that receives stock options as part of their employment package would be entitled to a higher salary if those stock options were taken away. Residuals tie payment to quality — or, at least, popularity — and thus act as a goad to better work (again, much like stock options, or a share in a co-op).

    Internet distribution is going to eat away at TV rebroadcasts (the major source of residuals) and DVD sales (a minor source of residuals), for the simple reason that the internet and the TV are heading toward unification. My digital set-top box already isn’t all that different from a computer with a hard drive, browser, and cable modem; in ten years, I doubt there’ll be a distinction. As that process progresses, the balance will tip away from the writers; they’ll be paid less in the future than they are now, even if the number of eyeballs watching their shows remains the same. Tying residuals to internet viewing is a way of automatically counterbalancing the scales — as eyeballs move away from traditional TV sets and to the internet, writers will continue to be paid as they are now. Does that really seem unfair?

  46. Teresa Nielsen Hayden / Moderator says:

    BoinkBoink, it bothers me when someone appears out of nowhere and posts this many slick, knowledgeable comments about a highly contentious situation where a lot of money is at stake.

    It bothers me even more when a writer as accomplished as yourself has no sympathy whatsoever with the striking writers, and when someone with as much insider knowledge as you appear to possess credits them with a much smaller role in the quality of the finished product than any other knowledgeable source I’ve read.

    In short, is there any reason I shouldn’t conclude that you’re a union-busting astroturfer, and unpublish your comments here?

    Do please reply. I’m not unreasonable.

  47. Wingo says:

    Great vid.

    But I think everyone’s barking up the wrong tree here.

    These execs are smarter than you think. They may be old, but they didn’t get to where they are by not being savvy. I think they totally ‘get’ it. I have a sneaking suspicion that this is not about royalties or residuals at all.

    What if, just what if, the producers of these shows encouraged the strike in order to cut budgets, and have no interest in settling? A lot of these long-term writing contracts will be nullified after they have been striking a certain number of weeks. They can swiftly cut staff/clean house without any fuss after that point, and force people to sign new, shorter-term contracts for less money while getting rid of the more expensive writers with long-term contracts.

    I’m afraid this is way more shady than it seems on the surface, people. They’ve used some wicked slight-of-hand and have tricked everybody into focusing the debate entirely on a different side-issue. Just wait and see…

  48. jere7my says:

    One quick response to the AMPTP open letter linked to above, which says:

    The AMPTP has offered to pay writers a percentage of the revenues the producer receives from licensing streamed content on the Internet. However, the Writers Guild is asking that writers get a percentage of what the Internet site owners receive in advertising revenues connected with the streaming content, even if producers are getting none of that money themselves.

    On the face of it, this sounds pretty reasonable — until you realize that the “Internet site owner” streaming content produced by NBC is…NBC. As I understand it, the studio can license a show to itself for a penny, cheerfully pay the writers their percentage of that penny, then earn a million dollars in ad sales by streaming that video on their own website.

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