Writers Ding Viacom Over Google Lawsuit

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Even though Hollywood executives claim this Internet thing is too new for them to figure out how much they can cut out of it for writers, the scribes pointed out Viacom seems to have an idea.

The ongoing strike by the Writer’s Guild of America has brought production of TV shows and movies to a standstill. At issue: the writer’s want a fairer slice of the revenue brought in by DVD sales and Internet content delivery.

Writers have been rebuffed in their negotiations. Michael Eisner has claimed it’s too soon to demand revenue from an unproven business model.

“For a writer to give up today’s money for a nonexistent piece of the future — they should do it in three years, shouldn’t be doing it now — they are misguided they should not have gone on the strike. I’ve seen stupid strikes, I’ve seen less stupid strikes, and this strike is just a stupid strike,” chided the former Disney honcho.

However, as Boing Boing noted in a post by Cory Doctorow, Viacom patriarch Sumner Redstone has a pretty good idea. A video of Daily Show writer Jason Rothman pointing out Viacom’s billion-dollar lawsuit against Google for alleged copyright infringement on YouTube painted Redstone as a hypocrite on the issue.

The video also zinged Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman over a statement he made this summer: “Viacom will exceed $500 million in digital revenue this year.” Web media is part of that revenue projection.

Either digital content has an identified value, or it does not. Viacom, at least, thinks both conditions can be true. The writers disagree.

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Writers Ding Viacom Over Google Lawsuit
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  • pixelm

    HIGHLY misleading headline and the comment just reflects no knowledge of the situation.

    — first, writers DO get paid. Writers are paid substantial amounts for their scripts and, unlike in any other industry, they ALSO get to participate in revenues. (Airline employees don’t get an increase when they start charging you a ticketing fee).

    — second, writers are paid on download to own and other forms of pay distribution AND there is an offer on the table to pay a royalty on ad-supported internet distribution, too.

    — Writers and Viacom are on the same page on at least one issue – they both want to collect as much revenue as possible for internet exploitation. Where they differ is on how much the writers (which are one of many necessary suppliers) get of the pie. One way for writers to be assured of not getting paid for internet distribution is to support piracy – the studios can only share what they earn, and internet distribution hurts revenues from tv and movie distribution too. Ron Howard was quoted today as saying that “on a fundamental level, [downloading] is going to start eroding the market for television residuals.” Precisely.

    • David A. Utter

      Tell me where the headline is misleading. Does it have to do with the part in the video where the writers make fun of Viacom for suing Google? Oh wait, that makes it completely accurate.

      Fridays. Sheesh. Any more trolls? Bring it, freakshows, I need the chuckle.

  • Jeremyy

    David – I think you’re confusing a few things. Revenue is not the same thing as income, and actual damages are not the same as statutory damages. Also, I don’t see how you get unnamed “Hollywood executives” (from your first paragraph) = Viacom CEO.

    If you saw the Disney thing the other day, you know that there’s a great deal of confusion about what writers already get. According to the Disney response, writers already get a cut of download money, which seems to be the bulk of the pot. They’re now looking for ad-supported money, which is a lot different.

    I agree that your headline was totally accurate, but this is a much more two-sided issue than you’re letting on.

    • David A. Utter

      Hmmm, ok, I’m interested. Here’s what I’d like to know:

      Do credited writers currently earn residuals on DVD sales?

      What percentage do those writers earn? (Four cents per disc has been touted in that full-page Disney ad everyone’s seen.)

      Do credited writers earn a residual payment when their work has been repurposed for distribution over the Internet?

      Are there Internet repurposings where a writer does not earn a residual payment?

      Do the content-owning studios currently earn revenue on the web media they authorize for distribution?

      I understand revenue and income vary, indeed, Hollywood’s accounting is legendary on that topic.

      The question seems to be, should ad revenue be separated from other download money in determining the cut the writers get? I’m sorry, but something smells a little odd there.

      Is the argument really boiling down to whether or not the studios will share ad revenue from web media with the writers? If the answer is no, I have to wonder why it should not be part of the equation.

      • Jeremyy

        -Writers definitely earn residuals for DVDs, but I don’t know the rate. The ad you reference is probably right if nobody’s refuted it by now.

        -Writers currently get residuals for itunes downloads, or Amazon rentals or downloads (all of that download-to-own stuff). So, yes, they do get residuals from some internet distribution. They also get residuals if a studio licenses their stuff outright to a digital outlet.

        -They don’t get residuals on the ad revenue from ad supported web performances (like on nbc.com or abc.com or hulu). That’s consistent with television – writers don’t get residuals from advertising – they get paid cash up front.

        -Content-owning media makes lots of revenue on web media distribution.

        I guess your last question is the most difficult. If the future is going to be ad-supported digital delivery, do the studios now start sharing ad revenue? If your view is that video consumption will move away from TV and to the internet, studios will be losing TV ad dollars that they get to keep, and gaining digital ad dollars that they have to share (with writers).

        It’s a complex negotiation in a complex ecosystem. Additional money that goes to writers has to come from somewhere – there are people who work for News Corp other than Rupert. It’s hard to say there’s a “right” and a “wrong” – just two sides looking out for their interests.

        • David A. Utter

          I guess that’s ad revenue will be the hinge upon which the strike will turn. Writers are not going to have confidence in Hollywood accounting where parts of the revenue stream are taken out of the equation. If waiting for a settlement means waiting for trust, this could take a while.

          • Jeremyy

            I miss Lost :(

            Hope this ends soon.

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