Getting paid is the name of the game.
November 15, 2007 6:38 PM   Subscribe

Fresh from the picket lines, it's Not The Daily Show!
posted by EarBucket (53 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
hell, if they keep putting out this stuff, we won't need to watch Jon anymore...

I think we've found the solution!
posted by HuronBob at 6:47 PM on November 15, 2007


So does that make it the Schmaily Schmow?
posted by JHarris at 6:47 PM on November 15, 2007 [2 favorites]


...or "NAMBLA"...
posted by Riki tiki at 6:51 PM on November 15, 2007 [2 favorites]


I found this earlier today and was smiling quite a bit until the end...when I roffled. Mr Moneybags's accent is hilarious.
posted by DU at 6:54 PM on November 15, 2007


This was nice, but I get the feeling that free from the shackles and the dark confines of the writers rooms and stuck out there on the picket lines, these writers are starting to crave for their old routine. They need to write! Hence we get stuff like the linked video.

I imagine the situation is something like this at the moment;

Writer#1: "WE'RE WRITERS! UNITED! WE'LL NEVER BE... um... hey someone, pitch me a line here?"

Writer#2: "Um... defeated?

Writer#1: "Defeated! Yes, that's it! Oh yeaaaaaah. Man, that was great. Really hit the spot."

All writers: "So we'll march day and night,
By the big TV tower,
They have the network,
But we have the power..."
posted by Effigy2000 at 6:54 PM on November 15, 2007


I found this earlier today and was smiling quite a bit until the end...when I roffled. Mr Moneybags's accent is hilarious.

That's John Oliver, and that's his real accent.
posted by delmoi at 6:57 PM on November 15, 2007


I really don't understand why these people need the networks. There's more of an audience for the Daily Show online than there is on cable. Why don't the writers just quit and put their show online and sell their own advertising?
posted by any major dude at 6:57 PM on November 15, 2007


(More great John Oliver)
posted by delmoi at 7:04 PM on November 15, 2007


Outstanding. Thanks for posting this EarBucket!
posted by edverb at 7:06 PM on November 15, 2007


This was nice, but I get the feeling that free from the shackles and the dark confines of the writers rooms and stuck out there on the picket lines, these writers are starting to crave for their old routine.

Why the "but"? Can't a person get paid for what they feel driven to do?
posted by DU at 7:09 PM on November 15, 2007


This was great.
posted by arcticwoman at 7:14 PM on November 15, 2007


...need...Jon Stewart...fading...fading...fading...
posted by ColdChef at 7:14 PM on November 15, 2007


This is a great example of what a strike is good for.
posted by Pants! at 7:18 PM on November 15, 2007


(more of John Oliver and his bloody anglicism)
posted by Riki tiki at 7:35 PM on November 15, 2007


Followed some links off that Daily Show clip to a few others:

Here are The Simpsons writers, doing what becomes a sort of inadvertent parody of one of those just-guys-hangin'-out Dockers ads from the '80s.

And here are the writers of The Office playing it straight and an apparent self-parodying mash-up of the same footage.
posted by gompa at 7:49 PM on November 15, 2007 [2 favorites]


So the Daily Show is OK, but 96% of TV is pure shit. I hate Viacom et al as much as the next guy, but it's not like these are teachers or fire fighters striking. I'm sure most TV writers are talented, intelligent people that deserve fair and just compensation, but I can't help comparing this to the a baseball or hockey strike.

If I write a book, paragraphs and in some cases whole chapters of my work can be published on the internet with or without my permission and be considered fair use (correct me if I'm wrong). Why are TV writers special in this regard that they are due compensation for similar use? (And for that matter, why is Viacom?)
posted by _aa_ at 7:56 PM on November 15, 2007


Why are TV writers special in this regard that they are due compensation for similar use?
Here is your answer.
posted by mullingitover at 8:01 PM on November 15, 2007


Just to play devil's advocate here, with regards to The Office: Is it safe to assume that the writers agreed -- signed contracts, even -- to make those webisodes without compensation? Is it safe to assume that those webisodes may have had something to do with the subsequent success of the show, and the continuance of their jobs?

On the surface, those Office webisodes seem like the perfect encapsulation of the problem. However, the more probable reality of the situation is that, in creating those webisodes pro bono, they knowingly made a sacrifice for the greater good.
posted by Reggie Digest at 8:12 PM on November 15, 2007


_aa_, you're conflating several different issues there. The writers are not asking for compensation for fair use excerpts. They're asking for a percentage of the fees that the studios are already taking from the consumers and advertisers for full broadcasts.

(You're also greatly exaggerating how much of a written work can be excerpted and still called fair use.)
posted by ook at 8:14 PM on November 15, 2007


No, sorry, mullingitover. In my opinion that comment is a good argument for why actors, directors, etc. are not entitled to a percentage, but not why writers are. I am not entitled to a percentage of my industrial employer's profits, so why is this commenter suggesting this is a "basic right"?
posted by _aa_ at 8:14 PM on November 15, 2007


Double post?

The 'Not The Daily Show!' video was highlighted in a comment in yesterday's FPP: Quick to the internets!
"As the WGA strike enters its second week, the writers have begun to flood the internet with brief videos explaining (and even making light of) their situation. A small collection after the jump."
posted by ericb at 8:19 PM on November 15, 2007


ook, can you cite or advise exactly how fair use translates to television, if at all?

If that's the case, then the video poster's argument about the $billion youtube lawsuit is completely unrelated to the strike, correct? Because the youtube lawsuit is about copyright violation, not full broadcast fees. He's using it as a means to establish value, but the lawsuit is establishing value on the copyright, not the actual content.
posted by _aa_ at 8:27 PM on November 15, 2007


I'm glad it got posted as an FPP, 'cause I missed it yesterday and [this is good].
posted by intermod at 8:28 PM on November 15, 2007


_aa_: You're right that it's not unlike a baseball or hockey strike. It's a group of people who are unique and vital parts of a wildly profitable entertainment industry. You may not care about that facet of our culture, and I'll be the first to agree that it doesn't compare to the need for emergency services and education. But the writers aren't claiming that they're deserving of special adoration and privilege in society. They're saying that they deserve a bigger piece of the things they create, which I think is very reasonable.

...paragraphs and in some cases whole chapters of my work can be published on the internet with or without my permission and be considered fair use (correct me if I'm wrong)

Your statement is misleading, since the nature of the use of your work is the major factor in fair use determination. But far more importantly, your metaphor is inapplicable.

As others have pointed out, this isn't a matter of a 30-second excerpt of a show being put on the internet, which would justifiably count as fair use or promotional use. This strike is about the studios putting full episodes online, getting ad revenue, and then depriving the writers their fair piece of the pie by denying the pie exists or saying they don't know how big it is. It's about writers being told to write online content (like The Office "webisodes") and receiving no compensation for that work.

Fundamentally, this is about making sure that creative minds get properly compensated for creative works. The writers aren't just interchangeable members of the crew, because the end product is inextricably a reflection of their "voice" in a way wholly unlike the gaffers or key grips. To pretend otherwise is to believe that Picasso was a glorified house painter.

Why is this different from your industrial employer? Because when you have an idea, and you work to make that idea a reality, you are a part of the final product and it is a part of you. Your investment (be it personal, financial, or creative) is an order of magnitude beyond the assembly line workers and middle managers of the world. You are an entrepreneur, and should be rewarded appropriately when you are a successful one. Maybe you don't work harder than the janitor who cleans your office, but the market forces have deemed your work special.

This is the way in which the free market rewards independent thinking, and it's this principle that drives innovation -- whether that's building a better mousetrap or writing a better sitcom.
posted by Riki tiki at 8:38 PM on November 15, 2007 [2 favorites]


I don't have a link, but SNL is being presented as a stage play this Saturday (Michael Cera hosts)
posted by Frank Grimes at 8:43 PM on November 15, 2007


If I write a book, paragraphs and in some cases whole chapters of my work can be published on the internet with or without my permission and be considered fair use (correct me if I'm wrong). Why are TV writers special in this regard that they are due compensation for similar use? (And for that matter, why is Viacom?)

Uh, they're not. This has nothing to do with fair use, which is use by someone other then the copyright holder for some specific purpose. but putting an entire show online isn't fair use, I mean not fair use in terms of quoting. There are other types of fair use (like for education, or if something is newsworthy) but that's totally beside the point. Fair use applies to people who don't own the copyright, but Fox and the other media companies do own the copyright. They can do anything they like with the content.

That's why the writers are striking, not suing.

am not entitled to a percentage of my industrial employer's profits, so why is this commenter suggesting this is a "basic right"?

Sure, but if you were the only one who could do what your company needed, and you asked for a percentage, then they would have no choice but to give it to you. And that's what the writers are asking for. This is a negotiation.

If the writers were not unionized, then obviously this wouldn't be a problem. Individual writers could ask for whatever royalty they wanted, or they could chose to forgo royalties in lieu of a greater cash advance.

Whether you think it's fair or not really has nothing to do with it.
posted by delmoi at 8:48 PM on November 15, 2007


_aa_, the laws regarding fair use of video and audio are murky. somewhat inconsistent, and still not totally defined. (Which is pretty much why the viacom/youtube lawsuit is a lawsuit.) But they're irrelevant to this strike. Nobody gets paid for a fair use excerpt, including the writers; this strike won't change that either way it goes.
posted by ook at 8:48 PM on November 15, 2007


If that's the case, then the video poster's argument about the $billion youtube lawsuit is completely unrelated to the strike, correct? Because the youtube lawsuit is about copyright violation, not full broadcast fees.

Wrong. You continue to display the impression that excerpts are categorically fair use. This is incorrect. Posting a Daily Show segment to YouTube simply to share it with people is not fair use. Posting it to your blog as part of a critique of modern satire, arguably, is. Overwhelmingly, the uploads to YouTube are part of that former category, and Viacom's argument is that they dilute its own ability to profit from Daily Show distribution (such as via thedailyshow.com).

Yes, there's probably some hyperbole. That "billion dollar" figure probably includes punitive damages as part of a claim that YouTube was negligent about addressing copyright violations. It probably also includes lost profit estimates from syndication (which writers do get paid for, as far as I know).

The Not-The-Daily-Show correspondents' point is that some part of that number represents Viacom's estimated losses that they expected from online distribution, which makes it a contradiction to the studios' position that online distribution isn't a revenue source.
posted by Riki tiki at 8:51 PM on November 15, 2007


_aa_: If I write a book, paragraphs and in some cases whole chapters of my work can be published on the internet with or without my permission and be considered fair use (correct me if I'm wrong).

Well, you're wrong about the "whole chapter" part, but that's okay. This is the internet, and it's our job to completely misread copyright law.
posted by dhammond at 8:54 PM on November 15, 2007 [3 favorites]


Riki tiki is correct. The 5-second explanation of the YouTube lawsuit has nothing to do with fair use, it's simply "who is respsonsible for all of these infringing clips on YouTube?"
posted by dhammond at 8:59 PM on November 15, 2007


Is it safe to assume that the writers agreed -- signed contracts, even -- to make those webisodes without compensation?

No, it's not. If you watch the link from the writers of The Office, you will find out that the network asked for them, didn't pay them to write them, didn't pay them to display them, and wouldn't even pay the 27 bucks it costs to get them an Emmy statuette for the Daytime Emmy they won for them.

I've already gone on at length about how writers get paid in the original thread, but just to explain what seems to be tripping so many people up:

1) The new media clause is incredibly important because all reruns are being shifted to online. The residuals that writers, actors, directors, crew, used to get for reruns- those are drying up, and more and more, home media sales are being delivered as files, not DVDs or VHS tapes.

2) The new media clause is incredibly important because just like your boss in the shoe factory or what not, our bosses can ask us unreasonable things that we feel unable to refuse and continue our employ. Like, say, refuse to write web content for which we are not paid.

3) The residual system works like this: Nobody knows what's going to be a hit, and what's going to be a flop. People make their best guess when they option a project (and that option word is very important,) but nobody knows. Obviously, somebody thought Ishtar was gonna make a lot of money.

3a) Since nobody knows what will flop and what will hit, everybody involved in a production makes a leap of faith. A writer offers up the script for development to a production company. The writer gets paid a *minimum*, and the production company then has a certain amount of time to actually make the movie. If they can't secure funding, a director, a name actor to open it, then they lose all of their development money and the script is returned to the author. Who can then option it to another producer, if someone else would like to take a shot at it. This can happen over and over and over- it's a delightful little ring o' Dante's that we like to call turnaround, or Development Hell.

3b) But let's say that everything goes right. The production company gets Big Name Star attached to the project, investors line up, buzz is good, excellent. This means they actually cast the whole thing, they shoot it, they edit it. They secure distribution, advertising, partnerships with McDonalds, whatnot. Now, the writer is still up the scale minimum, the production company is down the cost of the shoot, and that's where the audience comes in.

3c) Did the audience like it? No? Suxxor? Ishtar? Damn. Oh well. The production company gambled and lost (though chances are, they'll still make back the cost of production with overseas and DVD sales. Maybe not profit, but usually break close to even. Unless the movie is Glitter, in which case it's best if everybody just hides and waits for people to forget it ever happened.)

3d) Did the audience love it? Yes? Roxxor? Titanic?? Woot! Everybody woot! The production company makes back their cost, and moves into profit. If it's a hit, then the writer gets a little teeny tiny share of the profits; if it's a monster hit they still get a teeny tiny, but I'd like .3% of five hundred zillion million dollars, wouldn't you? We get that share because we sold the script for less than it was worth because- here's the important part: the audience decides what a script is ultimately worth.

3e) Scale for a feature film right now- the minimum you can be paid for an original feature film screenplay- is $53,000. And that's if it's Ishtar OR Titanic, but Titanic went on to gross $600 MILLION dollars in first run and worldwide. God knows how much it made in home video, because I don't feel like looking it up. If John Q. Screenwriter had written it, is he really only entitled to $53,000 out of $600 MILLION?

3f) Since nobody's psychic, there is no Screenplay Roadshow willing to make a baseline guarantee that this script will be the foundation of a mega-smash-hit movie- or at least, get a lot of Oscar buzz- and since no one can tell the difference between an Ishtar and a Titanic while it's on paper, profit sharing is the only way to adequately compensate the people who made the production possible. That's always been the case, for everyone involved. The author takes less than the screenplay is probably worth, up front, and hopes it's a hit. The producer puts money up front, and hopes it's a hit. Once a production goes into the black (thus compensating the production company for the $53,000 bucks they paid the screenwriter in the first place,) everybody's even, and everybody should get a share of the profit they created together.

4) I make no statements of artistic merit for Ishtar or Titanic. They're just famous examples of commercial failure and commercial success in filmmaking. Glitter was just godawful all-out one-hundred percent bad, and I stand by that assessment.
posted by headspace at 9:09 PM on November 15, 2007 [10 favorites]


5) Remember the option word up there? How I said it was important? Even if reading all of this, you still think that the production company is entitled to all the profit, please go back and read 3a. A production company doesn't buy a screenplay. They buy the right to produce it within a certain amount of time. When the movie's made, and the profits are in or out- the screenwriter still owns the screenplay. TV's a little different, because then you pitch an entire series, and they often buy the concept of the series- but as you've seen with network hopping shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Scrubs, the creative foundation of the show, still belongs to the show's creator. Not the studios. Not the network. It belongs to the writer; the execution belongs to the studio, everybody's even, and everybody should get a share of the profit they created together.
posted by headspace at 9:18 PM on November 15, 2007


This is a new golden age for television. From The Sopranos to Lost to The Daily Show I really feel like there is an abundance of stuff worth watching. Lots of crap, too, of course, but my TiVo is always full of more great stuff than I have time to watch. I know nothing of Hollywood but I believe somehow that the quality we're seeing has something to do with writers being given more power and freedom to do what they love. I can totally deal with a few weeks of reruns or Netflix if it means the writers get the cut they deserve. More power to 'em.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:22 PM on November 15, 2007


headspace: Right, And it's important to remember that originally writers were paid for DVD, VHS and other types of media, as well as re-runs. But now, all that will be on the web, and unless something changes, the writers would be screwed.

So in other words writer A writes for a huge hit, and makes a ton of money, he's set for life. He never has to work, and just enjoys life as royalties from DVDs and the like roll in.

But then something happens, the internet comes in. And the companies post their content on the internet, and rake in profits from ads and paid downloads. They pay the writers nothing. So the bottom line is the companies still make the same amount of money, but the writers now make nothing owning only to the writer's guild's inability to predict future types of media.
posted by delmoi at 9:22 PM on November 15, 2007


Riki tiki, I acknowledge that my reference to fair use was inapt and unrelated. I do still maintain a disagreement with your premise.

Let me preface this by saying that I encourage and support all people in their right to organize and strike when necessary.

First, I disagree that there is a fundamental difference between the output of the industrial worker and the TV writer. If you're going to make the argument that TV writers should be entitled to residual outcome, you must also make the argument that all employees should be similarly entitled. Generally companies award this percentage in the form a simple fair and agreed upon salary. This I would argue is the same case with TV writers. I don't think they really want a percentage, I think they want a raise.

The software engineer who works for the company who creates a profitable program is not entitled to the profits. As an employee of the company, his/her creation is the property of the company. You seldom hear software engineers complain about this arrangement as they are generally handsomely compensated.

It seems to me that if a writer/programmer/graphic artist wants to retain partial or complete copyright of their work, and the residual revenue that provides, they should probably not agree to transfer the ownership of these materials to their employers in exchange for scale or salary.

I'm certain that at any time these writers could quit and have all the residual income from their work they want. But the truth is that TV writers became TV writers specifically for the regular pay check. And when push comes to shove, the writers need the studios way more than the studios need the writers. This is not about percentages or "reflections of 'voice'", it's about getting a raise.

The studios found a new source of revenue using the content they were already paying the writers to create. This in no way impacts the amount of effort writers put forth to compose a script so why should they be entitled to a cut? What the writers are saying is, "We're not necessarily working harder, but you're making more money, and because of that we deserve a raise."

I can understand striking if you're working in an unsafe environment, or for truly unfair wages. Unfortunately I'm yet to hear an argument that urges me to support this strike.
posted by _aa_ at 9:28 PM on November 15, 2007 [1 favorite]


If John Q. Screenwriter had written it, is he really only entitled to $53,000 out of $600 MILLION?

Thanks for the comment, headspace, but in fairness I think it's fair to point out that a screenwriter working in Hollywood and having his pictures released theatrically is typically making more than $53,000 per picture. The guys that are good and that can be counted on to deliver ("getting on the list") typically get paid really, really well. These are not starving writers.

That being said, it's clear the writers are getting shafted and I do not disagree with your point. The strike is about everyone, not just the A- and B-list writers, of course.
posted by dhammond at 9:28 PM on November 15, 2007


Yeah, if your agent is any good, you got more like 100,000 to 300,000 for your feature. Would you like to gamble with the chance that your entire adult career is only going to pay you 300,000 bucks *once*? 'Cause that's what most working writers do, and those are the film guys, and definitely what's going to happen if all home media goes digital and we get no new media scale.

TV people take home a lot less, and they get paid weekly or biweekly, just like anybody else. But their jobs could disappear at any moment, or just fail to return after the summer. Production does Pilot season once a year and most tv writers are NOT the showrunners. They work on a show they didn't create. If you end up on a crapass series that gets canceled after 3 episodes, you could be screwed for the entire rest of the year. Lateral motion is doable, but difficult when a production is already under way.
posted by headspace at 9:35 PM on November 15, 2007


_aa_, the difference between an industrial worker and a writer is that the industrial worker didn't invent the thing they're working on, they're just, well, laboring. A car would still be the same car if you replaced the guy who screws in the headlights. A movie or TV show wouldn't be the same movie or TV show if you replace the writer. That's the difference.

The software engineer who works for the company who creates a profitable program is not entitled to the profits

Closer, but still incorrect. True, there are some software engineers whose work is closer in style to the industrial worker's; they're doing essentially rote interchangeable work -- those guys take home a salary and that's that. A smaller group of software workers are actually responsible for the ideas behind the product, without them the products wouldn't exist. Those guys are not interchangeable, and they don't tend to take home a flat salary; they tend to start their own companies or work for stock or other forms of compensation which do tie their compensation to the success of the product. Just like residuals do for writers or actors. There's a whole spectrum of software people between those poles, but generally the indispensable workers are getting compensated by a percentage of the profits, one way or another.

I don't think they really want a percentage, I think they want a raise.

As headspace eloquently explained, a flat-fee arrangement isn't that feasible for writers, because nobody can predict what will make money and what won't. So a percentage is the fairest, really the only, way for the writers to be compensated when what they write succeeds, without overpaying them for what doesn't.

The studios found a new source of revenue using the content they were already paying the writers to create.

That's simply not in any way an accurate description of the situation. Old sources of revenue (video, dvd) are drying up, and will sooner or later obviously be replaced by new delivery methods (the internet). The studios, which have been sharing the profits in the old systems, are trying to keep 100% of the profits in the new delivery system.

You can't honestly make the argument that the writer deserves a share of the profit if we watch their show on a cassette tape, and a much smaller share if we happen to watch that same show on a shiny disc of plastic, and nothing at all if we happen to watch it on the internet... but that's the studio's position here.
posted by ook at 9:56 PM on November 15, 2007 [3 favorites]


Here's the best metaphor I can come up with.

An architect designs a pleasant an efficient model home for somebody. A contracting company then sells a client with a plot of land on the idea of building that design. The architect gets paid.

Then, the contracting company makes a deal with a neighborhood developer and uses the same blueprints for the entire tract-housing development. And claims that since they paid for the use of it the one time, it's all equitable. And then claims that they have no idea how much money they made from the tract-housing deal. And then demands that the architect design some model homes for them if they want to stay in the arrangement. And because there's no better way for an architect to make a living, he has to say yes.

If that analogy sounds ridiculous, it's because it is, in any other industry. So to all people questioning why the writers are getting so uppity, it's because of people like you, who largely inhabit the positions of power above them strictly because of the economics of hiring people who will maintain a status quo of screwing those below them.

Enjoy your re-runs and reality shows.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:02 PM on November 15, 2007 [4 favorites]


Everyone's all pissed off about my assertion that entire chapters can sometimes be posted on the internet under fair use.

According to this document, it's sketchy, but as long as it's for educational purposes and posted to a secure server with the intention of replicating normal classroom distribution it's fair use. My unresearched, vague, uninformed statement wins!

Also, I didn't bring up fair use, the video poster did when he brought up the youtube lawsuit as Google is citing fair use in the case. Therefore, it's perfectly valid to discuss fair use in response to this video, because if Google is right and it is fair use, then the lawsuit goes from $1,000,000,000.00 to $0.00 and the video poster's argument is moot.

I know we all like Jon Stewart and the Daily Show, but when I think about TV writers, I don't envision Jon Stewart, I envision the writers for soap operas and game shows and the 700 club and all the horrible crap that makes up the bulk of what is on TV. And therein is my reasoning for lack of sympathy.

I wonder if the president can force writers back to work like he can pilots.
posted by _aa_ at 10:05 PM on November 15, 2007


Well, now you've changed your argument to "I don't think they should get paid because I don't think what they make is very good". Which, fine, if not very nuanced. But that's not where you started.

And your fair use thing still conflates separate issues. The video brought up the lawsuit to dispute the studios' assertion that online distribution isn't worth anything, not because of anything to do with fair use. The lawsuit will be decided, in part, over fair use issues, but the writers strike has nothing to do with fair use.
posted by ook at 10:23 PM on November 15, 2007


And yet another (the third) MetaFilter FPP that features a 'WGA Strike' YouTube video: Studio Execs have Rights Too.

Why can't the updates and new videos just be posted to the original thread regarding the strike?
posted by ericb at 10:29 PM on November 15, 2007


when I think about TV writers, I don't envision Jon Stewart, I envision the writers for soap operas and game shows and the 700 club and all the horrible crap that makes up the bulk of what is on TV. And therein is my reasoning for lack of sympathy.

So what you're saying is that you have a wildly incorrect belief, and you're proud of it?
posted by thehmsbeagle at 10:48 PM on November 15, 2007 [1 favorite]


Google is citing fair use in the case.

You (and the blog you linked to) are conflating two separate issues. The case is about the "fair use" of clips in regard to the Safe Harbor provisions of the DMCA, but this is categorically different than "fair use" as (loosely) defined by the U.S. copyright office.
posted by dhammond at 11:09 PM on November 15, 2007


when I think about TV writers, I don't envision Jon Stewart, I envision the writers for soap operas and game shows and the 700 club and all the horrible crap that makes up the bulk of what is on TV. And therein is my reasoning for lack of sympathy.

Yeah, not to pile on, here aa, but the discussion used to be about what the writers should receive as a fair amount for their role in creating these products, rather than whether or not the products suck.

Also, John J. Viacom, Jr., III? Hilarious!
posted by ibmcginty at 2:09 AM on November 16, 2007



The software engineer who works for the company who creates a profitable program is not entitled to the profits. As an employee of the company, his/her creation is the property of the company. You seldom hear software engineers complain about this arrangement as they are generally handsomely compensated.


Did you ever hear of a little something called "stock options"? My future income as an engineer depends highly on the companies future profits because of the options that I have. And if the executives got a share of that profit and I didn't, I'd be just as pissed as the writers are.
posted by octothorpe at 5:19 AM on November 16, 2007


Hey, maybe this will fairly price all the lawsuits that the M. P. Ass. of America and their ilk like to file against 12 year olds.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 8:24 AM on November 16, 2007


Why writers get residuals.
posted by sparkletone at 12:15 PM on November 16, 2007


thehmsbeagle, I wouldn't say I'm proud of it, but I'm certainly not ashamed to be critical of the quality of television.

I'm obviously flying solo here, so I'm going to yield to the overwhelming counter-argument and try to avoid TV related debates in the future.

Thanks.
posted by _aa_ at 4:19 PM on November 16, 2007


Not sure why so many peopel feel the need to post about how all TV is shit. It could be true, but it sure isn't relevant. That shit is making billions, and this is a contract negotiation. Maybe you don't like GM cars, but does that mean their workers should take it up the ass?
posted by haricotvert at 4:58 PM on November 16, 2007


What if they gave a strike and no one cared about the product? you're telling me the glop on the tube gets "written"?
posted by telstar at 5:11 PM on November 16, 2007


WGA member, so I've resisted posting in these threads (here and on other blogs) but I am weak and have decided to break the seal. (And encouraged by so many of the comments I've read.)

WGA writers make almost nothing from the sale of VHS and DVDs. The reason why the residual pay scale is negligible -- and when I mean negligible, think $0.02 for every DVD sold -- is that during the CBA negotiations when DVD and VHS payments were on the table, the studios told the WGA (and other guilds) that the technology was too new and that profits were too uncertain. Once the guilds gave up residual payments for the home video market they've never been able to put the issues back on the table.

Obviously, the home video compromise has been a mixed bag for the guilds. On the one hand, there's an argument to be made that a strong home video market has increased the need to produce theatrical content; put another way, there's more feature film work for guild members 'cause the studios wish to produce more movies. And so the DVD/VHS trade-offs have, arguably, created more feature film work for guild members, albiet at the cost of residuals. However, the DVD trade-off has impacted the guild's television writers adversely; the DVD marketplace has substantially decreased the syndication values of broadcast television shows; and so while TV writers used to receive substantial residual payments when their shows were rebroadcast, that source of income is drying up, thanks in part to the WGA agreeing to the producer's "DVD technology is too new" argument.

Cut to 2007, and the producers have returned to their old playbook: tell the writers that the Internet is too new and uncertain to determine whether the studios will ever be able to turn a profit. Seems like a smart move on their part, right? The argument worked before. But this time the new technology will not supplement the traditional methods of content delivery, but instead it has the potential to completely replace it. If the WGA goes along with the producer's argument, and again agrees that the technology, this time the Internet, is too new to fall under the collective bargaining agreement, its members long-term ability to make a living as writers will be in jeoprady. If internet distribution is not covered under the CBA formed at the end of this strike, it will take another work stoppage for the guild to make that happen.

So, to WGA members, this is a very big deal. Did it require a strike to settle? Probably not, but negotiators for both sides have so-far refused to give an inch, and refused to play nicely with one another. No guild member I know wanted to be in this position, btw.

Finally, some may not realize this, but not everyone who writes for television is a member of the WGA. Those game show writers and 700 Club writers referenced in the comments above? I'm pretty sure they're still working. And I'm positive they are not working on guild shows.
posted by herc at 6:33 PM on November 16, 2007 [3 favorites]


Sorry, Internet
posted by homunculus at 2:48 PM on December 3, 2007


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