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Charles Stross on the Writers’ Strike

Charlie Stross weighs in on the WGA Writers strike, and offers this summary of the situation:

Right now, the scriptwriters are on strike. They’re not striking because they want more money, but because the big studios they work for want to cut off their residuals. That is: when you write a script you get paid some money, and when the TV program is eventually made and broadcast you get a bit more money, and when it’s turned into a DVD you get some additional money (residuals) or when it’s converted to some other medium and made available again. Forget “information wants to be free”, this is how these folks make their living. Now Viacom and the other large studios are telling the authors that they don’t deserve to get any money for internet rights to their work, because the internet rights are merely used to promote the TV shows and are of no commercial value. (Meanwhile, they’re suing YouTube for a billion dollars for using their TV shows, and their CEO says the internet rights to their IP portfoilio are set to earn $500M this year.)

About John DeNardo (13013 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

4 Comments on Charles Stross on the Writers’ Strike

  1. What do writers get when the scripts they write don’t get made into movies? Do they give back the money they were paid when they sold it the first time? Or does the studio eat the cost?

    So riddle me this, writers get paid when they sell the script, they get paid again when the script is made into movies, they lose nothing if they wrote crap and nothing is made. Man, that’s a really sweet deal! Heads they win; tails, they don’t lose! Hmm, tell me again why they should be whining??

    Get your lazy arses back to work!! If you wanna more money for your work, make the damn movie yourself!

  2. Ah, right, so when a writer hands the studio a big-titted hit, it’s fair to make a boodle off of it for ever and all time without giving back to the people who made it possible?

    You understand more than you think. The next step IS the writers making the shows themselves. Just as musicians have started to market their own music, writers could, theortetically, tell the execs to screw. No writer=no show=no money.

  3. Why should they be “giving back to the people who made it possible?” The writer sold it, the studio bought it. Once something is bought, the seller no longer owns it — as far as I know, that’s still the definition of a sale. The fact that they’re getting residuals, they should be thanking their lucky stars!!

    I’m in the middle of selling my house — I would love to sell it, pocket the proceeds, and then have the buyers pay me more money when their house appreciates because I made it possible for them to have my house in their name!! That would be such a sweet deal! You think I can get my real estate agent to do that for me??

    Take it another way, my builder built the house; they designed it; they paid the day-laborers to build it; they sold it to me. I, sure as hell, not going to give them a cut when I make money off this house!

    You can argue intellectual property vs. tangible properties all day long, but it’s still an exchange. The writers gave up their rights to the piece once they sold it — they even conned (:-@) the execs into paying them more $$$ later and now they want even more.

  4. I think Stross is a little off base.

    The studios need to maintain control of their work. If they don’t, they will lose it. It is just like an author going after a web site for publishing their books on the internet (who just did this against Boing Boing? I can’t remember). They need to do this or else they risk their material being declared public domain. They are enforcing their copyright. This is why they are suing YouTube. Oh, that and Google has deep pockets.

    I’d like to see the source material for the statement about CEOs declaring the value of their internet rights will earn $500 million. I wonder how many studios that is spread over? If it is spread over 50, an extra $10M each isn’t much to be concerned about when you are making billions.

    Also, Stross’ argument is that soon all material will be on the net and we will no longer have broadcasts or DVDs. I appreciate the forward looking idea, but I don’t see that happening soon.

    He is right that the studios would like to see the residual system go away. I doubt they can put that genie back in the bottle, though. The residual system is here to stay, and all the creative folks (screen actors, directors, etc.) who get them will negotiate contracts that have them getting paid them no matter what the form the work is reproduced in.

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