10 November 2007

Is Net Neutrality bad for the WGA?

There are many things I believe in. I believe in the soul, the cock, the pussy, the small of a woman's back, the hanging curve...wait, that's Crash Davis. Lemme try again.

  • I believe in the equitable - not even - distribution of wealth. The old Ben & Jerry's model - where no employee earns more than five times any other - should be a requirement for all corporations. Sumner Redstone would be paying writers like goddamn rock stars if that were the case.
  • I believe Stewart Brand was a genius.
  • I believe Mickey Fucking Mouse should have entered the public domain about 30 years ago.
What else?

I believe in the WGA. I do so for selfish reasons: someday I'm going to get those residual checks for my scripts and I'd like them to be big and juicy. And I do so for moral reasons: labor should be well-compensated and management should do what it does best and shut the fuck up.

I also believe in Net Neutrality. Bits is bits. Doesn't matter if I'm streaming porn or writing a blog post on crappy theater. All bits are created equal. And whether those bits come from Hulu or Joe's Video Shack they should be treated the same. Without Net Neutrality, conglomerates will take control of the web in the same way they've overrun TV, film, radio, and newspapers. The cacophony and din we've all grown to love will be silenced by the dull, monotonous droning of Viacom, Time-Warner, and Disney.

Right now, as y'all know, the WGA is striking for residuals on new media, amongst other things. They're standing tall and proud and brave, and thanks to the nobility of the show runners (writers themselves) have begun the shutdown of production weeks and months earlier than the studios expected. I fully expect the WGA to win fair concessions from the D-bags at the AMPTP, though it may take months.

How is it that the WGA can be so effective?

Big Labor is most effective when it can shut down Big Capital.

With six major players, the 12,000 striking members can easily target their picket lines. This applies pressure to the producers. It also limits the outlets for the writers. It sounds cruel, but when labor has nowhere to go it stays united. The more sources of capital there are, the more likely some of them will be non-union shops. Work for writers during a strike puts food on the table, but it doesn't put residuals in the Internet.

What Net Neutrality provides is the potential for any content provider to be big. It allows for brand new startups like Herskowitz and Zwick's quarterlife to create a new outlet for original content. Sounds great, right? Except who forces the new outlets to negotiate with the WGA? Do they operate in concert with other outlets like the AMPTP, or do they all negotiate their own writers' contracts?

How much power does organized labor have against dis-organized management?

I don't know the answers to these questions, but they'll need to be asked and answered in the years ahead.