Monday, February 26, 2007

WGAW Members get compensated for writing webisodes

The Writers Guild of America West has scored a big one for folks who produce content strictly for the web (and against NBC Universal TV.) While the WGAW suit against NBC Universal TV has to do with web writing for what would be essential tv-type productions, it could set a precedent for writing for various kinds of Internet-based content distributors who also have no model for compensation for their work. Could this include "citizen journalism" initiatives on TV affiliates and at various newspapers across the country? Read on...

As explained in Red Herring, NBC Universal announced plans to produce "webisodes"--short content made for the Internet--for some of its most popular shows. But there was nothing that explained pay and compensation for "webisodes"--so the WGAW "encouraged" its members not to write the webisodes until they reached an agreement on pay and compensation.

Makes perfect sense, doesn't it? Webisodes are short in nature, are not network television, and therefore are something completely different--like most content that's created for the web (word, audio or video.) And if it's not spelled out in the contract what a "webisode" is, and what is fair pay/compensation for work on it, then there is the potential for a writer to not receive adequate pay/compensation.
“Here’s a new medium [internet-based tv-style shows] that, if not supplanted, will become equal in importance to classic television and movies, yet there’s not one answer on how to compensate for the work,” said Steven Weinberg, an intellectual property and entertainment lawyer at Greenberg Traurig in Los Angeles.

What Weinberg is talking about is a problem with *everything* that's on the web--whether it's a kind of TV show, something written like an article, or a "podcast." My sense is that there is a concern that what's done for the web is in some way less than professional, and doesn't need to be compensated in the exact same way...

This idea, though, leads me to think more about "citizen" content--whether it's written, audio, or video. Will "citizen" content be used as a substitute for professional content--with the reasoning that, because it is online, it is somehow "less than"?

Red Herring goes on to explain that some inside and exclusive deals are being made between writers and producers, but that there needs to be an industry standard. The industry standard is necessary to ensure everyone--from the rookie writer to the seasoned professional--is treated fairly:
On one hand if you’re a hungry young writer, working on webisodes is a great way to break into the business because the cost of production is fairly low,” said Robert Phillips, a freelance television producer for many Stephen King productions, such as Kingdom Hospital, Rose Red, and Storm of the Century.

“On the other hand you have a bunch of existing writers who have experience working on the show,” he added. “But you better know there are many producers out there willing to get by with paying slave wages.”

I would say there may be a parallel between the producers in this case and publishers in the case of newspapers. Everybody wants something for nothing, and if the Somebodys can convince the Little Nobodys that their work is serving a "greater good" or that they'll get "discovered" and then anointed Professional, then the Nobodys are ripe for the "harvesting"...

Unless all those Citizens and People and Rookies are somehow protected by a union...or get smart enough to fight and protect themselves.

, , , , ,

No comments: