Thursday, July 12, 2007

The War Against Creatives

Here's the lead paragraph from a New York Times story called "Hollywood Executives Call For An End to Residual Payments."
ENCINO, Calif., July 11 — In an unusually blunt session here today, several of Hollywood’s highest-ranking executives called for the end of the entertainment industry’s decades-old system of paying what are called residuals to writers, actors and directors for the re-use of movie and television programs after their initial showings.
There are major negotiations coming up between Hollywood producers and the WGA and SAG, which represent writers and actors respectively. This may simply be a negotiating tactic, but there's the chance of major strikes next year as the guilds are interested in extending residuals into the new forms of media such as cell phones and the web and producers will resist it.

If the producers get their way, creatives will benefit financially just once from their work while the conglomerates continue to collect profits for 100 years (the current length of corporate copyright) on exactly the same work.

(Animation artists do not qualify for individual residuals, though the members of The Animation Guild benefit from residual payments made to the union. Non-union animation artists are essentially in the position that the producers want to impose on writers, directors and actors.)

The case for owning your own work (or as much of it as possible) keeps getting stronger.


Pete Emslie said...

With the ever expanding number of venues for entertainment, particularly those that are internet-based on PCs, cellphones and other high tech gadgetry, it is becoming more confusing as to how profits should be divvied up. Though I'm certainly on the side of the writers, performers, etc. I can't help but feel somewhat sympathetic towards the various studios and producers, too. I personally resent this continued fracturing of the entertainment audience, split into ever smaller entities as they gravitate to all of the numerous platforms. Obviously this effects everybody's profits, with individual broadcasters and producers seeing ever diminishing audiences.

I frankly do not understand the situation as well as you do, Mark, as I haven't your firsthand experience in the production of a show, but I do wish that the model could return to that of the simpler 1970's, when we just had a small, finite number of entertainment outlets and everything made so much more sense to me then. With entertainment playing to such a fractured audience these days, I've sort of rebelled by not really watching any of it. Instead I, like many of my friends of a similar age, find more gratification in the older movies and TV shows I grew up with, which I have made a part of my permanent DVD library. Alas, I am one less pair of eyeballs that the industry can count on to support their current offerings.

Mark Mayerson said...

Peter, look at it this way. If I decide to buy shares in Disney, I get to profit from the work of Ub Iwerks, Norm Ferguson, Fred Moore, and everybody else who created those films before I was even born. The families of those artists receive nothing (unless they bother to buy shares themselves).

That strikes me as morally wrong. I know that morality is not something that enters into business arrangements, but it always struck me as horrible that anyone with a buck to invest was entitled to profit from work they had no hand in creating for as long as the copyright lasts. At the same time, the people who actually created the work, once paid, no longer receive any financial benefits from it.

The animation business is worse off than the live action business in terms of residuals. Now, producers want to bring everyone down to the level of animators. I hope that the Hollywood guilds are strong enough to prevent this from happening.

Anonymous said...

Yet another move by the corporations to insure their stranglehold on the profits derived from media assets.

This is getting ridiculous!

On a similar note, the RIAA is about to knock itself out of existence due to recent moves to raise license fees so high that it will effectively kill the market of internet radio - stay tuned!