Eric Bogosian — actor, playwright, screenwriter, and Writers Guild member for over 20 years — emails me (and permits me to make his message public) about six issues he hasn’t heard mentioned in all the talk about finances between the striking writers and the Big Media companies:
“1) In the spirit of ‘residuals’, the producers have never played fair. Contractually they short the writers (take a look at the international “buy-out”, which isn’t even being discussed in this negotiation) and then short the writers again by under-reporting income (again, especially internationally).
“2) In the new “Internet” age, for the first time, very exact accounting will be possible. Of course the advertisers will demand such exact accounting. Servers will be able to count the “hits” on any download very exactly. So potential residuals can potentially be calculated to the fraction of a dollar.
“3) In the new Internet age, the producers / studios / networks will be able to circumvent the international “middlemen” — national television stations and distributors in foreign territories. With the Internet they will be able to distribute directly to the local consumers. Furthermore, they will no longer need to distribute only to the largest markets (Germany, Italy, etc.) but will be able to distribute to every single person with internet access on the globe (Antarctica, for example).
“4) Ergo: Much greater profits (for example, a product like Coca Cola can advertise by being tacked onto an international distribution of say, the tv program Friends, or a download of American Gangster that goes directly to every person with a computer on the planet.) And Coke will be able to count every hit. Potentially, so could the WGA.
“5) Much greater profits and much greater exact accounting. Studio / networks want one and not the other. Understandably, since they haven’t been sharing in any real way in the first place (except with their insider partners, the star producers).
“6) This gives them a good reason to attempt to break the union(s). It’s not irrational. It’s just business.”