Check out this analysis of the new Directors Guild Agreement by Jonathan Tasini of Working Life. Tasini argues (contrary to my understanding of the conventional wisdom) that the fight in the ongoing writers guild strike isn’t about residuals for online downloads but rather the jurisdictional scope of the union itself in a world where content is produced socially:
The DGA only gets jurisdiction over product currently under contract. That means that all non-union work–such as reality shows–will remain outside the new media jurisdiction.
And any work done under those thresholds will not be covered. The industry is precisely moving to a lower-cost structure–doesn’t that sound familiar? It’s the “kid-in-the-garage” problem–content coming from everywhere and everyone. As I described it in a panel discussion I just spoke at this week, it’s similar to the off-shoring of work in manufacturing. You have the world of the WGA, where the standards are decent, with wages, health care and pensions. And, then, you have Big Mediastan–that would be the world where there is no union, where there are no residuals, no pensions, no health care. The above provision agreed to by the DGA seems–seems–to allow the growth of Big Mediastan. As an aside: it is one reason I believe that a critical component of the WGA’s future–and that of the Screen Actors Guild–is to focus intensely on organizing the young kids today who are cranking out material using IMovie and other software. The unions have to get those younger–and older people–who are now producing content into the union now so that they don’t become this mass of unorganized, low-wage labor that has no connection to the labor movement.
If the WGA agreed to those terms, it would basically be giving up on an important issue: union jurisdiction.
Fair enough: but if the strike is about monopolizing content production, the writers have a significantly tougher political fight on their hands than one would think from watching videos like this.