The duration and dialectic of the Writer's Guild strike demonstrates to me
that most studios continue to "not get it" when it comes to digital media.
They still insist on monetizing every right, and yet only want to
share in that monetization if they can see an a priori
to generating profit from the format or device that generated the cash.
If anyone on the left coast believes that phones, iPods, and similar
portable devices will not
be major video platforms for at
least the next generation of users, then spend some more time
any place frequented by teenagers. But the whole
situation runs much, much deeper than simply guessing where
and how people will watch their re-runs of "Scrubs".
It's about how we, as consumers of the content, also generate
interest, foster new consumption and basically do the job of
advertising and marketing arms of the studios. If every digital
right is something to be controlled, with every potential fractional
cent wrung from that control, we all lose. We lose because we miss
out on things that might have mad us laugh, cry, or hurl (and if
you laughed at that, you just proved my point, particularly if you
had to explain the open guffaw to the next cube over. Party on, Wayne).
My opinions (and they are mine) are pretty straightforward here: if a
studio can charge money for content, then that revenue should be shared
proportionally independent of the vehicle, format, encoding, delivery,
or payment mechanism. Compensate the creators, or they stop creating.
That's one part of the writer's guild argument. My opinion is modulated
by the words "can charge money,", not "must charge money," and that's
the missing corollary argument around digital rights.
How do you grow the overall demand for this content, enriching everyone
along the way? That means giving away some rights, whether it's
for YouTube video background music or setting context in a 1970s sitcom.
There will continue to be licensing deals done - if you want your
new car line to use a classic rock song, you bet the label will want
a residual on each traffic slot filled. But I experienced, first-hand,
the downside of this insistence on getting blood money from stone cold
Part of our family holiday tradition is to pick out movies or TV
shows a least a decade removed from our kids' lives. They've
discovered why Hoosiers might be the best sports movie of
all time, and enjoyed a very young Julia Roberts in Mystic Pizza.
I was sorely tempted to buy the boxed set of WKRP In Cincinnati
this year, until I found out that many of the musical gags had
been edited out -- without redistribution rights for
10 seconds of various classic rock songs used in the television airings,
those scenes were simply elided from the DVD set. So the audio
punch lines can't even fall on deaf ears; the jokes stopped existing.
You can only laugh at 70s fashion style so many times; WKRP as
a series falls apart without the rock and roll angle. And it's likely
to continue to sit, unloved as newsie Les Nessman, until those
Foreigner tracks are reunited with the on-air cast.