Friday, November 9

Closing Hollywood: Writers Strike

The NBC hit The Office is one of several shows that are closing down production because some cast members and show runners are either sympathetic to or members of the WGA. In this case, Steve Carell will not cross a WGA picket line, which has effectively shut down the show despite having more scripts ready for production.

“They cleaned out my trailer and just delivered me 3 boxes of my stuff. It is pretty surreal,” writes Jenna Fischer, who plays Pam Beesly on NBC hit The Office.

“We cannot produce new episodes of The Office until the Writer's Guild strike is over.”

Fischer is one of several actors and actresses who are using their mySpace pages and blogs to focus in on one of the primary issues related to the writers strike: the Internet.

Writers are not compensated for rebroadcasts online despite the fact that the networks earn income from advertisements that accompany the content. They also do not receive compensation for downloads on iTunes or Amazon.

It’s a significant part of failed negotiations because the Writers Guild of America (WGA) already knows that the shift to all digital entertainment is the future of television. It’s also important because networks could theoretically hold off on the syndication or rebroadcast (reruns) of television shows, making them available on platforms that can generate more revenue without compensating the creators.

This issue isn’t just important to striking WGA writers. It’s important to everyone who writes on the Internet. It's important to you and me.

All too often, content distributors are screwing content creators by claiming they own all rights as part of their terms of service. I adamantly disagree with this practice.

In fact, this is one of the primary reasons I’m careful about what content I place on platforms such as Facebook, which does claim all content rights — your content, which makes them attractive to advertisers. They don't need all rights to the work of their members. They only need first electronic rights.

Even on this blog, when I hosted the Jericho Fan Fiction contest, I made it explicitly clear that any writers who submitted work only needed to grant us first electronic rights (the right to publish their stories online first). Put simply, Ray Hayton, Myles McNutt, and Nick Lynse retain all other rights. I cannot, for instance, publish a book using their work in entirety without their consent. Many social networks, online content providers, and even blogs claim that they could.

For me, this is one of the best reasons for the general public to consider supporting the WGA strike. The terms that come out of the strike could be used to prompt online content distributors to revisit their terms of service.

According to the WGA, they are still working out how the public might show support of the strike. Right now, they are inviting the public to send e-mails to show support. Some of them will be published online. You can also download the strike graphic that accompanies this post and add it to your blog or Web site.

They have also told me to "stay tuned." There is more to come.



MaryAn Batchellor on 11/9/07, 9:32 AM said...

One of the biggest problems strikers have right now is the public's general lack of understanding of the issues at the heart of it all. This helps.

Sweet Tea on 11/9/07, 11:27 AM said...

Thanks Rich. Here are two excellent websites working to get the word out.

I am hoping to interview anyone who wishes to pass along understanding of the issues.

Anonymous said...

The strike is on, now get a deal hammered out!!!

Rich on 11/9/07, 4:28 PM said...

Thanks Maryan and Jane,

All very useful resources. Thank you both.

All my best,

Rich on 11/9/07, 4:39 PM said...

More words on Facebook:

It seems Facebook had no problem with owning your content or making it look like you endorse a product...

"Chris Kelly, the chief privacy officer of Facebook, called to present a number of reasons why he thinks this law doesn’t apply to the new Social Ads. He said Mr. McGeveran’s interpretation of the law was too broad.

Mr. Kelly said the advertisements are simply a “representation” of the action users have taken: choosing to link themselves to a product. He added that in many states, consenting to something online is now seen as the equivalent of written consent.

And he argued that it would be difficult for someone used in one of these ads to object because that person had already chosen to publicly identify themselves with the brand doing the advertising.

“We are fairly confident that our operation is well presented to users and that they can make their own choices about whether they want to affiliate with brands that put up Facebook pages,” Mr. Kelly said."

Rich on 11/10/07, 12:00 AM said...

Even more words:

The Writers Strike is spilling into entertainment ... some related, some unrelated...

Broadway stagehands are set to begin a strike on Saturday, darkening the majority of Rialto productions. — Variety

Rich on 11/10/07, 12:02 AM said...

Famous Last Words:

"Come back to the table, baby," John Bowman, Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers, which is the negotiating arm for the companies. "We can work it out. As long as you come back to the table with a fair deal, we'll greet you with open arms." — Variety

Anonymous said...

This needs to be emphasised in the internet community. This issue has come up in the past and will continue to in the future. There truely is something at stake for all of us.

We need to let the networks know that we support the writers by sending them letters. As with the Nuts campaign, somebody has to open and read every one of them.


Gary on 11/10/07, 5:54 PM said...

I support the writers' cause as well, and I hope they get what they want, although it seems unlikely for now. Its not fair for them at all, they make the tv shows what they are and all they get is 4 cents a dvd sale.

Rich on 11/11/07, 8:29 AM said...

I couldn't agree more Gary.

Even more important, I think, is flushing out electronic rights so writers and creators are compensated for their work when it is online. The medium that the work is presented on doesn't matter.

If the pay scale is different that is one thing, but the percentages don't need to be.

All my best,

Sweet Tea on 11/11/07, 8:36 AM said...

There's a movement afoot to send food and water to the strikers. Everyone should read this first.

Rich on 11/11/07, 9:08 AM said...

Thanks Jane,

That makes sense. Here's the most pertinent part...

"What we'd really like most, if you do want to continue to show support for our strike, would be for the fans to make additional donations to (Court Appointed Social Advocates — CASA in honor of the striking writers." — David Rambo

However, I think Rambo might be missing is that fans want to be more engaged. So, in addition to that, and I am NOT speaking for or affiliated with WGA in any way, fans might consider showing support by posting strike ads on their sites, sending e-mails, letters, postcards, etc. to either the WGA in support or the networks in protest.

Basically, fans who want to be involved might do exactly what they would do during a show cancelation protest.


Anonymous said...

Hi Rich,
unfortunately Facebook is the only site that many focus on, but many don't realize that ownership of one's material on the net can be taken over by many of the Social Networks, Forums, ISP's, Web Hosts, and much much more.

Some, may actually say, they don't only own Your work, but also YOUR NAME!! For Real, this is actually happening to ME!

The GRAND NEWS - The TSA's that many sign, are not even worth the paper that they are signed on.. ah, that is right, they aren't signed on paper huh? Okay, in plain english? the TSA's that many of us have signed, are so bogus, vague, incomplete, and have more holes than a colander - that they become rendered ineffective, to the favor of the Author.

Yet, it does become VERY expensive to fight for one's rights - don't let that stop you though. This is where it is very important to have an active strong voice, and a strong advocacy

But, Most important, it is time to let these people recognize, they Don't own YOU, YOUR Name, Your Work, and hard efforts without fair and reasonable Consideration back to the Author

Lastly - A Contract cannot be unilateraly changed without the other's party consent first. Many of the TSA's state that we agree to the changes automatically.. That is WRONG, and it does not hold up! Information about contract changes must be Public, for ALL to be aware at the time of the anticipated changes, to allow an individual to say, hey, I agree to this, or allow themselves to be removed from the situation!

Thanks for the opportunity of putting this info up

Karen M

Rich on 11/11/07, 2:57 PM said...

You're very welcome Karen.

All my best,


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