Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Mr Writer, why don't you tell it like it is?

John Bowman, WGA negotiating committee Chairman (full disclosure: I know John)

Jonathan V. Last over at Galley Slaves has a good explanation of the WGA strike:
* Unions aren't always the greatest things in the world and often they're quite destructive and the source of tons of inefficiency. That said, they can be the provider of important protections and shouldn't be dismissed out of hand.

* In this particular fight, the Writer's Guild has a pretty reasonable position: There is an emerging delivery system for content in the form of digital downloads. Under current terms, the studios classify revenues from downloads not as money derived from the airing of creative content (which would mean that it would have to be shared with the creators), but as ancillary income from the promotion of content. In other words, they classify the downloaded content as a commercial for the broadcast content, just to get around paying royalties.

We saw the ur example of this last summer when Battlestar Galactica filmed mini "webisodes" of original content to be aired on the Sci-Fi Channel's website. Sci-Fi contended that these webisodes weren't "content," per se, but were simply long, extended commercials. That had actors. And scripts. And special effects. And plot continuity that tied into the series.

* The WGA wants to reserve a portion of that revenue stream for when/if digital delivery becomes profitable. The studios insist that it isn't profitable now, and probably won't be in the future. But if they really believed that, they'd give the WGA what they want, since 5% of nothing is nothing.

* So the studios are being less than fair and honest on at least two points. From a moral perspective, then, the writers are on the side of the angels.

There's more, I recommend reading the whole thing.

And go to That's all.