Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Did the DGA Screw the Writers--Again?

The WGA has jettisoned its demands on behalf of animation and reality writers at the "informal talks" with the AMPTP which started this week. That sucks. And so does the pressure mounting from people who think the DGA agreement is something the WGA should accept. This is without seeing the actual agreement.

I've got a really major complaint about that agreement based on the summaries I've seen: the DGA sold out for too little on the Internet by agreeing to flat rates and a window of opportunity for the studios to (a) take all the money that comes in during the first couple of weeks of Internet availability while (b) there is no guarantee that the material will actually remain available after that.

I'm sorry, but if the DGA wanted a guarantee of payment, it should have stuck to a demand that any flat fee be an advance against a residual percentage of money from Download One. That's basically how the publishing industry has worked for centuries (although the vertical integration of media has meant that there is an attempt to steal those royalties from writers.) And why won't the studios agree to a reasonable percentage-based residual like that? Because I am willing to bet they've seen the future killings they will get by limiting creators to flat fees and barring them from participating in any way in the most valuable period of availability--the first three weeks of release. As David Letterman says "the AMPTP: cowards, cutthroats and weasels." And as Viggo Mortensen puts it, " it would be noble and only fair if those corporate decision-makers in the entertainment industry who are spending considerable funds on their reasonably successful campaigns to put the Writers Guild in a bad light as party-poopers would spend that money on a fair contract and fair compensation to the writers..."

I wish the negotiators the best, but I hope to god they stay firm with a demand for a percentage of download that does not include a black-out for the writers and shows some semblance of making up for the fact that there will be fewer and fewer reruns on network TV in the future. No more rollbacks.

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