If you don’t know, Hollywood writers are on strike. First it was Late Night TV shows like David Letterman and the Daily Show, then prime time TV production like The Office halted production. The last strike in 1988 lasted 22 days and cost production companies $500 million. This current strike “pits union writers, whose position has been eroded by reality television and galloping technological change, against studios and networks that are backed by big corporate owners. Ultimately, the two sides gridlocked over the writers’ insistence on a sharp increase in their residuals payments for the re-use of movies and shows on DVDs and on new payments for the distribution of such works on the Internet, over cell phones and elsewhere. Producers refused to boost the DVD payments and rebuffed demands related to electronic distribution, arguing that industry economics and still-shifting technology made accommodation impossible. ” (NY Times) This got me thinking, how do we define publishing given the numerous types of media used to display content on the Internet alone?
Blogs, videos, podcasts, forums, plugins, widgets and so forth are all some form of media. Isn’t publishing pretty much the same concept no matter the medium. A bunch of writers (or one) writing something that a bunch of producers/publishers (or one) produce or publish? The only difference is the medium. A book, a TV show, a movie, a web page, a podcast, etc.
Once upon a time people wrote books, music and plays only. Then came radio, then movies, then TV and the Internet. The Internet is not just a platform on which to publish content, it is a platform used to create new ways of publishing content. So, shouldn’t writers be compensated just as considerably for Internet publication as they are for TV or film? It’s not like we’re going to suddenly stop at the Internet or cell phones. There will always be some other way to publish written content or other content for that matter. Compensation should be to scale and relevant to the medium.
Content can and will be resold and re-used and repackaged in as many ways as consumers demand. Ultimately, when the dust settles, or perhaps in the negotiations, both sides will realize that new media, specifically in regards to the Internet, is a new frontier for publishing and production that warrants a new set of rules by which both writers and studios need to support each other, embrace, and innovate.