Thursday, November 8, 2007

A Case of Enlarged Balls

Writer's strike again. I know, it seems like I shouldn't since it doesn't remotely involve me. But I think it's important and I'd like to be involved and one of the things the WGA suggest is to simply get the word out. The companies the union is fighting against are the media conglomerates. The very few monolithic forces that control what we hear and see through the newspapers and television and more. They can't be relied upon to be objective here and, so, it's up to the little people to crank up the rumor mill and pass along what they know. And while I might not have the biggest soapbox, as long as I have this site I might as well use it.

Anyway, I'm increasingly coming around to the view that the writers are the ones bathed in the warm light of righteousness here. The content producers main argument against sharing more revenues from the so-called non-traditional media with the union is that the technology is in its infancy and they're still figuring out how to profit from it. But, those claims ring a little hollow when you hear stories like this:

Forget the funny for a moment, the studio demanded that the cast and crew work on thse webisodes for no compensation because they were "promotional". Yet that same promotional content is put on websites supported by advertising. I've watched shows online - it's the main way my mother follows some of her favorites, even - and at the very least they require you to watch an ad before you can view them. Even if they're put up on sites like YouTube, they're still supported by advertising. Just like they would be on a television screen.

There is profit here. Someone is making money off of those ads or, at least, they're defraying costs or they wouldn't be offered. The business model might not be set in stone, the exact scope and details of it might have to be worked out but the studios know they're going to making money from this eventually. And what the writers are asking for is a fair share of the profits. For a cut of the royalties, the residuals, which are the delayed part of their work's value. They got screwed out of this sort of thing with the advent of videotapes and VCRs and they don't want to let the opportunity to drive a hard bargain pass by without putting up a fight. They're not asking for anything that's going to bankrupt these companies, just going to cut into their bottom lines marginally more than it would otherwise.

An then you hear stories like this one from the Battlestar: Galactica creator about a similar webisodes deal and how he was treated by the company when he tried to stand up for his intellectual rights. Once created, the studio owned those scenes and could use them as they saw fit to the point of sending security to haul them away. As Mr. Moore puts it without the protection of their union contract the studios would "rape and pillage". They would trod over any and everyone in their way in the name of increasing their profits because that's what they do. And protecting its members' rights is what a union does. And until there's some contract to bind their employers actions here, I think this union should keep up this fight.

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