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SFWA Supports WGA Strike…Do You?

Michael Capobianco, President of the Science Fiction Writers of America, has announced the SFWA’s support of the WGA strike:

Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) stands solidly in support of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike in seeking appropriate compensation for writers when their work is distributed digitally, either in DVD form or through Internet downloads.

Contrary to prevailing wisdom, the future is not here yet. As science fiction writers, we’re perhaps in a better position to see that than others. Society is in a transitional phase, as physical entertainment media slowly give way to their digital equivalents. Physical distribution, cumbersome and expensive, is going the way of the buggy whip and rotary phone dial. The change has already started with the distribution of films and TV shows.

During this phase, writers and other creators are having their work distributed digitally without seeing any benefit at all. The excuse given is that this distribution is for promotional purposes only, but, in fact, the powers that be are using this transitional period to establish unfair precedents. It’s the camel’s nose. These precedents will hurt creators as digital distribution becomes the predominant method of distributing and accessing content. It’s as if book publishers of the early twentieth century had told authors that movies would be made out of their books, but they shouldn’t get any money because the movies wouldn’t be profitable and were being made just to promote the sale of books.

SFWA believes that writers should be paid a fair amount for each DVD and for each download of their work. If the work is used on the Internet in any way, the writer should be fairly compensated. This is a fundamental writers’ right, and it’s worth fighting for. WGA is staking its claim on the future, and SFWA supports it wholeheartedly.

Lots of folks support the WGA, but I’m starting to see some anti-WGA backlash.

Do you support the WGA? Do you care?

(Be sure to vote on this topic in this week’s poll, accessed from the SF Signal main page.)

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.

23 Comments on SFWA Supports WGA Strike…Do You?

  1. Hey, is there a Software Writer (read: Whiners) Guild of America? That way, we can all join so that we get in a cut of the YouTube action and if we don’t, we’ll just walk out and do nothing! Of course, they’ll just outsource us to India and China so the key here would be to recruite them first!

    Unions in America have become nothing more than the mob (except they’re legal, as far as you and I know). Once upon a time, they were founded on the principle of working together to ensure that workers don’t get royally screwed by their employers. But we’re in the 21st century now, there are plenty of labor laws in place. So now, unions are in the business of bullying employers to getting what would otherwise be stupid even to ask for — like getting something for nothing. Recent examples (not including the (W)hining, (G)reedy, (A)$$clowns) of this are the Broadway stagehands (they want to get paid for doing nothing), the NYC cab drivers (they want the ability to continue to screw their customers), the NYC transit (subway) strike (they wanted the city to pay for the rest of their unskilled, lazy ass lives after working just a few years).

    Last that I heard, we’re still in a free market economy where people are paid for the job that they do, and the value that they contribute.

    Speaking of the 21st century, aren’t there plenty of up-and-coming writers who are just dying for the chance to do what those WGA losers take for granted? This isn’t 1988 anymore — do they really think they can stay striking for 5 months?? Studios should start taking submissions from the Internet. Sure, there are plenty o’crap out there but there are plenty o’crap (read: Flash (uhhhh! oooh!) Gordon, and Heroes (so I’ve read in some SF blog, I don’t actually watch it)) on TV as is! Can it worse?

    Here’s something else the studio can try: they can offer the writers who would drop their WGA affiliation part of those residuals they asked for. Would that tempt some of them to cross the picket lines? They can’t all be pissed at the studios. You know what’s going to happen if they get what they want?!? All of those DVD box-sets of shows that people have to have (not me!) will probably double and triple in price just to pay these thugs.

    Ultimately, we have only ourselves to blame — we encourage these bad behaviors. Stupid people with no lives all over the ‘net are already blog-whining about how their favorite TV shows are no longer new and they need their 30/60-minute fixes. Everyone who knows me knows that I’m a huge TV watcher but you know what, I’m not going to die just because my TiVo stops recording stuff.

    P.S. John, can we have this for next week’s poll: How many think that the actors who “support” the strike are bunch of phonies and they’re actually part of the problem because they, themeselves, do get a cut of the DVD sales!

    P.P.S. I know Scott and Timmy will most likely jump in and tell me how one-sided my arguments were so have at it, y’all!

  2. No, I don’t support them. It’s not like they are striking for anything essential like health care or family leave. They are striking to get paid a for a job they have already been paid for. Can you imagine asking your boss for another paycheck for last months work?

  3. From what I understand, the WGA is striking over non-payment for Internet related purchases and rentals of shows and movies. From what I’ve read, the writers are not being paid much, if anything, from the money the studios are making from the rentals/purchases. They, quite rightly, want to get their cut. The studio’s response is basically “We’re still waiting to see how this whole internet thing plays out. We can’t pay until we’re sure what is going to happen.”

    Meanwhile, they rake in sales and cash every time someone rents/buys a movie or TV show.

    That’s my understanding anyway. It’s not like the WGA is saying “We currently get 2%, we now want 5%.” They just want their cut.

  4. I do care, and I wholly support the WGA. It’s easy to paint them out to be greedy, but I think that’s false. They’re asking for a very tiny percentage. The studios and some of their supporters say it’s a percentage of nothing — “there’s no money to be made on the Internet!” — but if that’s the case, what’s the harm in giving that to them?

    I think you can make an argument for or against residuals — although I also think Mark Evanier makes a pretty convincing case for them — but it’s ridiculous and insulting to claim they shouldn’t apply to online viewings and downloads, especially when that’s increasingly how people view their television.

    It’s an important, precedent-setting issue. And, because the studios are greedy, and because they won’t budge or counter-offer, the writers strike.

  5. …then they can negotiate better terms on their future projects and finish the ones that they’re currently paid to do!

  6. Tim Bartik // November 12, 2007 at 9:28 am //

    I don’t understand the resentments expressed by some of the previous writers towards the Writers Guild.

    As I understand it, the WGA wants a share of the receipts from various new media distributions of projects that relied on their writing. This certainly seems something that would be reasonable for a group representing writers to demand. I don’t know enough about the specific terms of their demands, or the economics of the industry, to judge the reasonableness of their specific demands. However, in principle, the issue they’re addressing seems a reasonable one for a writers’ union to address.

    The fact that other writers might be available for less, or that the perfect free market solution might have some other arrangement, is not really relevant. The whole premise of unionism is that the free market wage equilibrium may not be the most fair or just solution. This premise seems quite defensible.

    As to the comment that the writers have already been paid for their work, that is what the strike is about: should their pay depend to some extent on how much their work is used in new media or not? There would seem to be some fairness, as well as some desirable incentive properties, for writers’ pay to go up the more widely it is distributed.

  7. http://www.groupnewsblog.net/2007/11/just-got-to-stand-our-ground.html

    http://www.groupnewsblog.net/2007/11/what-writers-strike-is-about.html

    A few things about the WGA strike there. While I don’t ascribe the importance the Group News Blog does to this, I do support the strike. And one thing I do agree with from the GNB – why on Earth would the writers put forth solid effort if they’re not going to be appropriately compensated for their efforts?

  8. On a simplistic level, it looks like the WGA and the studios are two titans fighting over money, to the detriment of all.

    As JP and Fred has said, looking into it, the writers get nothing from Internet related viewings/rentals/purchases of programs. 0.

    It’s clear that we are in the process of moving from a broadcast model of TV show viewing to a multimodal model of broadcast, cable, internet, and other media as delivery systems.

    The writers are trying to make sure that they get a fair share of the money from such a future. Its entirely short sighted greed on the studios part to deny the writers a share of this on the grounds that its unknown how much money will be derived from these delivery systems. So? If the money from the Internet is a trickle at present, the writers should get their small percentage of the trickle. Its not much, but its theirs.

  9. Yeah the studios want to “double dip” on profits while the writers only get the “single dip”.

    I think the writers should get to “double dip” as well. So I guess I support the strike.

    I will always side with the people who make shows good.

    “Suits” ruin everything.

  10. Personally I think there should not be a Writers Guild at all, so I hope the strike breaks them once and for all.

    And also I hope that the studios lose more money so continue their inexorable road to bankruptcy. Both sides are fighting a 1950 battle in 2007 and they are going to lose big.

    The writers themselves once they go over the guild thing (remember that 90% of the guild member are not active, so they do not care about the current results of the strike – they win good, they lose, they lose nothing) will be much better off going on their own.

    Similarly, the soonest the big studios dissolve, the better everyone will be. In this age of cheap tech and distribution, the big studios are dead too.

  11. I absolutely support the strike and the writers. I’m part of a group called Fans4Writers, a grassroots organization working to support the writers during the strike through morale boosting activities such as our “Food for Thought” program, and by providing resources for raising awareness through downloadable icons, print-at-home postcards, flyers, etc.

  12. I support the strike by the writers’ union. As I understand it, they want to get their cut of DVD sales and profits from Internet distribution of the content that they contributed to creatively. This is perfectly reasonable. A novelist expects to get money when a work is made into a TV movie, audio book, etc. With some shows, a substantial portion of its success and profitability comes from DVD sales and rentals. Also, long term, in the changing media environment where on-demand internet delivery of content and DVD will likely exceed TV viewing in numbers and profitability, writers would be brain dead to continue without an agreement that cut them into this action.

  13. Sure I’m supporting them! I haven’t watched any television since…oh wait I minute!

    πŸ˜€

    Seriously, the studios (music, movie, television) sure do operate with some, um, interesting accounting principles. As I recall, Gene Roddenberry was once told that Star Trek was still unprofitable (and this was past the first couple of movies). Seems they were still charging for those initial sets. Peter Jackson seems to be complaining about many of the same issues that the WGA is when it comes to the DVD’s of the LotR movies.

    I heard a hilarious story last year about the music industry. The guy that wrote “Grandma Got Run Over…” found that it was a popular “ringtone”, so he was anticipating a nice check. When he got it, he found that sales were good–but he was being charged for “packaging”, “breakage”, “returns”. Packaging for a ringtone? Breakage? WTF?

    :O

  14. This is a contract negotiation between 2 parties I have no personal interest in. As a result, I don’t support either side really.

    The WGA doesn’t want a cut of profits from internet distribution, they want a percentage of gross. That’s a big difference.

    Are you all so sure that the studios are making lots of money from their internet distro? I’m not.

    Take a look at NBC’s new web site. How much money did it cost to set it up? How much does it cost to run it? Expensive servers and storage had to be bought. Software developers had to write that site – a group that is well paid. IT people have to run it – they are also well paid in general. The bandwidth has to be paid for – and it take a lot more than your $30/mo cable connection. Then think about how much are they actually making on the ads? Can it really be defraying the cost to setup and run the site?

    People should be fairly compensated for work – its just that everybody has a different opinion of fair.

  15. Sure I support the WGA. What’s going to protect writers when analog switches to digital broadcasting? Will this be another legal snag the studios will pull to gouge more money from writers?

  16. Jim Shannon // November 13, 2007 at 1:49 am //

    Sure I support the WGA. What’s going to protect writers when analog switches to digital broadcasting? Will this be another legal snag the studios will pull to gouge more money from writers?

    Oops forgot to log in |-)

    Jim

  17. Hey, what about all the people who are now being fired and/or laid-off as a result of the strike — they’re not protected by unions. I bet these people needed their jobs a lot more than the writers. Sure, you can blame the studios again for being mean but is it good business to keep people around when you’re not making money?

    Speaking of “double dipping,” do the writers share in the loss when the projects they write fail? Probably not, but the studios do. It seems to me, they want it both ways — if it succeed, they want a cut; if it fails, well, the studios had it coming! If the writers want complete control on how their works should be marketed and re-sold, etc. they can always form their own studios and deal with all the crap themselves. They’re paid to produce work which is sold to studios who make them into productions that we can debate on here, ad nauseum.

    I wish I get a cut of every piece of software that’s gone into every piece of hardware that’s sold by the company I work for — I would be a millionaire and I would care even less about the “plight” of the poor poor writers. That was probably a really bad example — different industries, different models, I had to go to college, they just have together something that will entertain some brain-dead couch potatoe 30-minutes at a time, *shrug*

    You know what I read? South Park is not written by mob, er… union writers so they’re unaffected so to quote the great sage Eric Cartman, “screw you guys, I’m going home!”

  18. This is a pretty funny video that my add a little perspective to this argument.

  19. FYI: Ellen Datlow wrote in to tell me that The Horror Writers Association supports the Writers Guild of America strike as well.

  20. NotWatchingTV // December 8, 2007 at 9:08 am //

    check it out, the talks have broken down again! woot for the studios!

    that’s right, starve those greedy writers for the holidays — they’ll be more malleable come the new year.

    after the holidays, offer them $249.75 per show per year and keep going down from there $0.25 at a time until they scream “UNCLE” or write that on their picket signs — this is best done in front of them with a big pile of quarters on a big table and taunt them as you take each coin away! no, i’m not being sarcastic! if they want to strike, then they should be prepared for the worst!

    suits rule! studios FTW!

  21. if the writers want the rights to ‘double-dip’ then they need to be doing ALL the work… NOT just writing, but distribution, etc as well… It seems to me that they have no more rights in wanting to be paid twice for their work as the boom operators and soundstage guys and all that.

  22. Hear! Hear!

  23. Best… Episode… Ever…

    Matt Stone/Trey Park for President 2008!

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