Warning, coarse language!

Harlan Ellison is a professional writer who has contributed to such TV shows as Babylon 5. He is also credited for having written the classic Star Trek TOS ‘City on The Edge of Forever’ episode.

  1. Charbax says:

    This is what should happen, there should be a $5 monthly tax on broadband Internet connections, that money should go to pay artists who make the music, films, books, pictures, open-source software that we should legally be allowed to download from p2p networks. Writers would then get paid through that fund. If everyone pays $5 average “Global Culture Licence”, that would provide a larger revenue then the whole culture industry, leaving the big studio coorporations out, they wouldn’t get a penny cause they are not needed anymore.

    Give the power to the artists and take it from the big greedy coorporations.

  2. Tsavo says:


    Take power from the greedy corporations and give it to the artists? This tax would just wind up giving more money to the corporations, and the artists would still only receive their attendant pittance of the share. Not only that, but it’s a pretty crappy idea to make people who aren’t party to piracy pay for the ability of others to get crap for free.

    Want to put a dent in piracy? Sue the utter living socks off of companies that allow access to pirated material, and block P2P/Torrent traffic at the ISP level.

  3. M0les says:

    Everyone in my family is getting Harlan Ellison books this Christmas!

    I don’t even care if he’s right or wrong, that’s one goddamn awsome monologue.

  4. BelgianDude says:

    erm yeah, global tax = bad idea.

    here in belgium they’ve had the great idea of adding a tax on blank cd and dvd’s.
    That money goes to the national copyright management company “Sabam”. And they are supposed to re-distribute that money to the artists.
    Meaning that when i burn a backup cd, archive my multi-track files on dvd, etc… i’m giving money to the artists in the top10 charts …

    now on the other hand, that same company has been convicted for money laundering, and other frauds … make you wonder ^^

    ps: i’m totally against that tax on the blank cd .. they cost 2x as much now .. so most of us order 500 or 1000 directly from neighbour countries …

  5. Max Bell says:

    1 & 2: Not sure what that had to do with the video — I’m guessing from the title and text that it was posted in reference to the WGA strike, but the video actually pre-dates the subject somewhat.

    What’s at issue is revenue from “new media” (don’t you love those anachronistic, old-media catchphrases?) — DVD sales, cell phone downloads, what have you. In essence, writers receive residual payment for content when it appears as re-runs on television. They don’t currently receive much for so-called new-media, however, and since the market dynamic is changing (“It’s gone hog-wild for change. You’d think there was a law about it. There probably IS a law about it.”), the writer’s guild has gone on strike in order to avoid being further pooched like they were with DVDs. The studios figure they can simply hold their breath — the new fall lineup sucked, and who gives a crap about writers, anyways?

    Ultimately, it’s a case of getting what you pay for.



    (Hell yeah, I support `em; I was an Ellison fan WAY back, and this particular issue is inseparable from the man).

    I also posted this up over on the skiffy forums the other day, as a result of which Ron Moore’s wife mentioned that they ran into Harlan on the picket lines the other day — you’d expect him to be on the barricades for this one, and I can confirm that he very much is. As is everyone else that matters. 😉

  6. lav says:

    Harlan is totally right on this one. I have worked in the industry for years and when i started out i did loads of little jobs for people and got nothing from it, if i had received a small percentage or royalties for any of the work i did, back in the day when new media was in it;s infancy, i’d be really well off now, instead i’m still busting my balls ever day to put food on my table.

    The writers are as important as everyone else and without them there would be no story!

  7. Cary says:

    #6, most of us bust our butt every day to put food on our tables.

    If you are a programmer working for a large company like Microsoft (for example), when they sell the program that you wrote (or helped write), do you receive royalties for it? Nope. Those programmers will need to work the rest of their lives because they never receive residual money from things they wrote for another company in the past.

  8. RTaylor says:

    Greedy corporations, the majority which are public, are owned by shareholders. If you have a mutual fund, you better check the holdings before you throw stones. Corporations exists to deliver profits to shareholders, that’s it sole purpose, non-profits excluded.

  9. Uncle Dave says:

    #7: “Those programmers will need to work the rest of their lives…”

    And so do most movie and TV writers. Only a relative handful are wealthy. Most are middle class, paycheck to paycheck writers who need residuals to keep going. There are only a handful of studios (movie and TV) and writers have a union. There are thousands of software companies, plus many work for non-software companies. Although on a certain level there are similarities between Hollywood writers and software programmers, if you research how the system is rigged against writers (admittedly, their own fault because they were too accepting of the studio’s demands in the past) you will see there is little comparison.

  10. Rabble Rouser says:

    I have been a Harlan Ellison fan for more than thirty years!
    This guy is one of the best writers EVER, bar none!
    His stories are prolific and prophetic, as well as humorous and engaging.
    He is correct on this matter, as he is about so many other matters.
    You have to love the man, he’s the best!

  11. bobbo says:

    9==Uncle Dave–please give us 1 or 2 of the points of comparison that demonstrates the two groups are not EXACTLY the same?

    Ie–both writers and programmers are the primary source of the product that gets packaged and sold by someone else. Programmers paid a salary, writers a royalty.

    On the surface, it looks to me the writers already have a better/fairer arrangement and just want to maintain it. Why disparage the programmers?

  12. I’m wondering if Ellison got paid for this rant.

    By the way, he’s right on all counts.

    What he doesn’t say — and why he did this rant for free — is that writers tend to do a lot of stuff for themselves, and for free here and there. This is just one example. But working for free for Warner Brothers is the issue. My example of a similar/parallel example is being invited now and again to speak at CES “for free.” I refuse to do it and never have spoken at CES. They make millions on that show and pay the speakers nothing. In fact they are so cheap they won’t even give you a room to stay at while you speak there. I won’t do a panel or speech at CES just so they can make more money. And there is zero publicity value. The people who do speak at CES are the “amateurs” who should be condemned for being rubes if nothing else.

  13. Improbus says:

    Harlan is a prick but I still have a lot of respect for him. You go girl.

  14. Charbax says:

    The Global Tax would go to artists and not coorporations. The way to do that is to simply write it in Law, that Global Tax on broadband connections should be redistributed to artists such as writers, directors, actors, composers, developpers and such.

    You can then let people pirate as much as they want legally, simply make piracy legal.

    That state entity would then monitor popularity and quality of all the works of art out there to then be able to redistribute the $5 per user back to the artists directly, simply writing checks directly to the artists no matter what contracts those artists have with production companies.

  15. Charbax says:

    If everyone were to pay an average of $5 global culture tax per month, the population of USA alone would then provide 1.5 billion dollars to artists per month, add 2.5 billion dollars per month from the European Union, and you’ve got nearly 50 billion dollars per year, that is like several times more than the whole music, film, photography, painting, writing, blogging, video-blogging, open-source software developping industries combined of the developped world. Those 50 billion dollars per year could fund upwards to millions of artists and give them 100% control over their art, with no production coorporations interfeering. There would still be plenty of funds to also still make big productions, simply the people in charge would be the most talented people with the most creativity, decided by users on the Internet through Web 2.0 tools and not decided by some production studio mogul.

  16. ECA says:

    And the people Collecting, distributing, monitoring, this money get HOW MUCH…Or is the gov paying these people? WHICH would ADD about $5 MORE to the cost of administrating the fee’s..
    Or didnt you REAd the back of ANY lotto ticket?
    It costs 1/2 to 3/4 of the collection of a tax, to administer it.
    And IF a corp administers it, that number is 80-90%..

  17. Cary says:

    #9, if you don’t think my programmer scenario is a close to the same situation, consider another option.

    If I buy a painting, I can do whatever I want with that painting. If I want to charge people money to visit my museum of paintings, I can do that. If I want to take pictures of it and print them on post cards, I can do that. If I want to make the digital copies of the painting available for free downloads on the internet, I have that right. I own the painting so I can do whatever I want with it without paying royalties to the artist that painted it originally.

    The writers of a show should get paid a salary for their work and then consider it a final payment. Perhaps if they think they are not getting enough money for it, they can raise their prices for their work. If the studios think it’s too much money they can go to someone else to write their shows.

    It’s obvious that writers want to get as much for their work as the market will bear and the studios want to get the scripts for as little as possible.

    This isn’t directed to #9 specifically but studios buy scripts that are never used. They never make it to TV and are filed away forever. In this situation, no royalties are paid. Does this mean that the writer worked less than another writer that had a script get produced and make it on TV? Should one writer make more than the other? The studios take a lot of risk producing a show — possibly spending millions and then end up canceling the show because of low viewer response but that could also be attributed to the time and day chosen to broadcast (could be at the same time as an extremely popular show on another channel). Although it’s not the fault of the writer, they will not get paid any extra for their work.

    In short, I believe the writers should negotiate a one-time payment for their work and then never expect to get paid any residuals from the use of that work.

  18. jrock says:

    If you want to make an apples to apples comparison, you have to look at the writes as you would an Independant Consultant. As a consultant, you negotiate your rate and you get paid as long as you work. Need a week off sick, comes out of your pocket. Need a vacation, comes out of your pocket. Need Heath Insurance, comes out of your hourly rate.
    The talent in the Hollywood Unions (I’m not talking about the 1-2% that are “Stars”) get their fee based on the collective bargaining agreements they made which account for all the benefits they need. These benefits then come from the Union “Health and Welfare” funds.
    Residuals are a form of Profit Sharing that again, is pre-negotiated with the employer. The Producers don’t have to pay them, but they set a precident in the past and now they have to deal with it… That’s why you have a strike.
    (BTW… To accept the argument that a writer should only get paid once for the work also says that Programmers should no longer get their Christmas Bonus or Stock options cause after all, they got paid for that line of code!)

    As for a tax on the consumer to pay the artistic community… Why should I have to pay $ 20 for a DVD and then cough up money to support the artists while the Eisner’s, Moonvies, Redstones, Iger’s and the likes get to increase their profits for it ? Want to collect that tax out of the profits of the media companies that charge us for the content… OK with me… If they raise the price of the product to keep their obscene salaries stable, at least I have the choice not to but the product.

  19. Cary…you have absolutely NO IDEA as to what you are talking about and apparently know NOTHING about copyright law. Most paintings are not reproducible as such without specific permission until the copyright runs out. If you buy an old public domain piece then you can do what you describe. But I assume you are buying a new piece. I hate to tell you this but the artist retains the copyright. You just own the painting. You cannot make the postcards you describe without permission. I’m laughing reading your naive beliefs, seriously.

    ALSO: There are a million good reasons the notion of a one-time fee is a bad idea too, but since you are so far out in dummieville I cannot see any reason to go into details. Let’s just say by your thinking I should be able to buy one copy of a photo and then make as many copies as I want and sell them. Or I can buy a CD or DVD and sell copies. Cripes. Use some logic.

  20. Cary says:

    #21, Perhaps I did not explain it properly. I was referring to old paintings such as what you would find in a museum. Those no longer have copyrights on them because it’s been over 50 years since the painter died. I agree if it’s a fresh painting, the artist retains copyright ownership.

    Additionally, if you hire someone to paint a picture for you, you should have a transfer of copyright to the owner of the painting. This falls within the “work for hire” part of copyright law.

    Since the writers of the scripts are being paid for their work, this also should fall within the “work for hire” category. In the case of works made for hire, the employer and not the employee is considered to be the author. You may read more about this at the following URL


    Look at the section titled, “Who can claim copyright.”

  21. “I have a mouth, I WILL scream.”


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