Just thought I would link to a couple of strike related videos. Both of them are pretty widely posted, but for those of you who consider me your source of information about the entertainment industry, here is a video that does a good job of explaining the writer's strike. It uses charts and graphs and other assorted graphics that make the point better than I could on my own.
And here is a video of the writers from The Office discussing the strike from the picket lines. Everyone has made a big deal about Steve Carell backing the strike as a supportive actor, but it's seldom mentioned that, as briefly referenced in the video, Carell is a writer (and thus, Guild member) himself. In fact, he was the credited writer on this week's episode.
The "promos" excuse is pretty flimsy, but I think it is especially lame when you consider how the industry treats piracy. If watching a full episode of a show can be considered a "promo," how is that different from someone watching a full episode from Bittorrent? Couldn't that be considered free advertising? It's generating interest in a show, and the network doesn't even have to pay for bandwidth! Only in that case the networks and studios would insist that their content has value and that someone should not be able to watch it without them receiving money for it. So why doesn't the writers' content have value when the network re-uses it? Their stance on when content has value online is completely hypocritical and self-serving.
One argument I've heard, and which honestly made me think, is that none of the below-the-line crew on TV shows and movies makes any residuals for their work. They do a day's work for a day's pay and that's that, yet they suffer when writers strike for residuals that they will never receive.
I really had to think about this: Why do writers deserve residuals? On the most basic level, what Steve says is true; no one is really entitled to anything more than people are willing to pay. But why do writers have a legitimate argument for receiving residuals?
I guess what it comes down to is that our society has decided that artistic work and related intellectual content has value, and that a person who does creative work should have certain rights connected to the content they create. No one would dispute that musicians and songwriters should receive more money when they sell more music. Most people think it's unfair that record companies take as big a cut as they do. Yes, it takes a lot of people besides writers, actors and directors to make a show or a movie. But many people, from manufacturing to promotions, have a hand in making a record a hit, yet they don't receive royalties either.
Now, I'm sure this comparison is not quite fair. Plenty of crew contributions to a show, from art direction to set design to prop building, involves a certain level of artistry and creativity, yet for some reason their contribution is not considered "creative." But in any case, that line has been drawn somewhere, and it hardly seems an argument for making the creative contributions of writers ineligible for the rights afforded other artistic creations.
On a more practical level, writing is an unstable profession. Writers spend tons of time writing things on spec for no money at all before they can even get a job in the first place. And then again between jobs. So it's helpful, if you've actually had some success, to have money coming in while you write for free between jobs.
For me, of course, this is all theoretical. Residuals are something that I only hope I will collect someday. But the thing about this battle is that if the writers lose, they'll pretty much never get paid residuals ever again. The internet is the future of content delivery, and the studios and networks need to admit that they have to figure out some way to pay writers for it. If they don't figure out a way to make money from it, the industry has no future anyway -- not paying writers is not the factor that is going to make or break that. Either there is money to be made on the internet or we'll all starve together.