These are scary, scary times for writers. You’ll realize this quickly if you’ve been following the news on the looming screenwriters strike. The Writers Guild is at a standstill in negotiations with the Hollywood production studios. The primary issue of contention—compensating writers for “New Media” (read: Internet) rights.
Here are two must-read recent articles on the topic, with brief excerpts:
From the Los Angeles Times:
Writers Guild votes overwhelmingly to authorize strike
Writers have rallied behind a theme that might best be summed up by the Who’s hit song “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” Writers maintain they were shortchanged years ago when they agreed to a discounted pay formula for home video sales, only to see that business take off. And they’re determined not to make the same mistake again as the digital revolution upends the entertainment industry.
“The guild made a bad deal 20 years ago and they’ve been angry ever since and they don’t want to do it again,” said Jonathan Handel, an entertainment industry attorney with TroyGould in Los Angeles and a former associate counsel for the Writers Guild. “That’s why we’re seeing a line drawn in the sand.”
For their part, the studios maintain that DVD sales are needed to offset rising marketing and production costs, and they contend that it’s too early to lock into pay formulas for shows distributed online because technologies are rapidly changing and they’re still grappling with uncertain business models.
Also, please read this article in Variety: WGA strike talks log digital divide: Sides still far apart on new media revenues.
Accounting for digital revenues has emerged as a major sticking point during the three months of contract negotiations between companies and the Writers Guild of America. The guild has seized on Hollywood’s bullishness over digital deals to hammer home its dual points: Digital media revenues will be a major driver of revenue growth at the media congloms, and writers deserve a slice.
Why this should matter to you if you’re not a screenwriter? Well, if you’re writing for publication and haven’t had to grapple with so-called “New Media” rights yet, you will be soon. I think the outcome of this strike really sets the stage for protecting writers’ rights for years ahead.
OK, please allow me to pontificate for just 30 seconds. You shouldn’t have to be poor in order to practice your craft. There are many, many big companies becoming very, very wealthy from the work of writers, and yes, they can afford to compensate writers fairly (psst: don’t believe anyone who tells you otherwise).
Please read the articles linked here and share your thoughts. And best wishes to our screenwriting friends.