Why the Writers are on Strike

You may be aware that members of the Writers Guild of America are on strike, sending late night talk shows into reruns and threatening the remainder of the television season. I am one of them.

You may have no idea why. Here’s a short video that explains what’s at stake:

17 thoughts on “Why the Writers are on Strike”

  1. I knew the strike had something to do with the online episodes, but didn’t know all the details.

    Best luck, and hope you get all that you demand!

  2. Thank you so much for sharing the video. It helped clarify some of the details for me that I wasn’t quite sure about. I really do hope that the writers come out on top of this one. It seems only fair. I’m definitely behind you on this one!

  3. I Love Lucy? Really? People should get paid for one piece of work for fifty years? I’d love to see the writers get a bigger chunk of change, and I mostly buy independent stuff for that reason, but after a couple years it’s time to let go. It seems this video would endorse us paying royalties to Rome for use of the arch. Who gets the money for the wheel? Dog-gone-it! People are making money off the wheel every day, and the descendants of the inventors deserve their cut!

  4. I’m not sure I agree with you Ben.

    The arch and wheel examples are clever, but they’re not the same as a script IMO. The wheel isn’t published. Nor is incorporating an ancient design in a current architecture project publishing. (it’s something… I’m just not sure what… oh yeah that’s what patents are for right?) The culture digests media. Media – books, movies, music et al – are served up on a plate, menu style, to a voracious public, and they chew it up like food. These elements are created by a team of people all of whom don’t have that hourly wage paycheck model in their lives like some other workers do, so what happens is they create something desirable, and then as it gets shown, performed, run again and again, they get an infinitesimally small portion (8¢ is still jack shit, I’m amazed it’s all the WGA writers are asking for.) With a 40+% unemployment rate (“at any one time”), no one can claim they’re being greedy. Besides… “we’ll raise you back up when the video market reaches a healthy level.” Give me a freakin break. It’s 20 years later. I’m steamed the writers aren’t asking for let’s say… 8 years of back earnings, since that was the time when video hit wicked healthy. Any time a greedy corporation hides behind “ohhh the old agreements never said anything about the interweb, we get to keep all that ad revenue” I want to puke.

    I’m not a member of the WGA. I am a writer. I believe it takes a village to make media, and I think sharing and also allowing those people who write something that has a shelf life of 50 years to get money each and every time that thing airs. Absolutely. It drives people to produce better material (not saying everything popular is good, just it has us leaning in that direction) – Why should there be a time when some of the members of a creative team get cut off from the earnings, while others get to continue to rake it in? It’s this mentality that is eating us alive as a culture.

  5. Ben, there’s a bigger issue at stake here.

    The networks and studios want to run movies and television series in their entirety on the internet, and monetize that content by selling ads. They have stated that they will not negotiate with us on any of our demands until we say that they can do this without paying us anything for that usage. To me, this is a morally unconscionable position that has ramifications for all creators of intellectual property.

    Think about it like this–
    The studios put a movie on the internet without paying and it’s called promotional.
    You download a movie off the internet without paying and it’s called piracy.
    The writer gets zero either way.

  6. Todd and Superfast,
    I definitely agree that networks and studios should pay for the material, regardless of how it is distributed. I didn’t mean to minimize the injustice of the current system. I found the example in the video to be extreme to the point that it defeated the message, and I reacted to that. I work in a technology industry where intellectual property laws – both copyright and patent – are stifling innovation rather than encouraging it. I like the idea of people getting fair compensation for their work. Getting a cut of every dollar generated by that work forever seems unfair. But writers getting nothing while studios get millions is certainly wrong, and I wish the writers great success.

  7. I hear ya Ben.

    Just wondering… why is it unfair that they keep receiving residuals forever? Why the distinction – or line in the sand? Why should a distributor or studio continue to make money forever and into new delivery medi(ums) when and if they are invented, but the writer, director, actors not?

  8. Todd,
    I don’t think the studios should keep getting all the money either. I see how much media our culture consumes, and I think we could severely shorten the copyright duration for most works without significantly reducing the demand for new material. I think all that free intellectual property could be put to good use by those willing to take the risks. So the writers should certainly get paid as long as the studio, but that shouldn’t be as long as it is. As a matter of fact, until they are paid fairly, I will be pirating all my movies! (That’s a joke! Don’t send the FBI to my house)

  9. “So the writers should certainly get paid as long as the studio, but that shouldn’t be as long as it is.”

    That’s all we’re asking–if they’re making money, we want a fair share. I lean more towards your position when it comes to intellectual property law and the abuses of copyright. But that’s a different argument altogether and not directly applicable to the negotiations between the WGA and the AMPTP. Our talks have to do with compensation for employment, not legal issues surrounding copyright duration.

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