Canadian Writers Guild Demanding ISPs Pay For Content Creation; Pissing Off Members

from the it-doesn't-work dept

Mark K. sent this in a week or so ago, but I'm just getting to it now. Apparently, Ryan Sohmer, an author of a popular webcomic called Least I Could Do, is pretty pissed off at the Writers' Guild of Canada, of which he's a member, which is supposed to be looking out for his best interests -- but is not. Specifically, it appears that the WGC is pushing for a proposal that would demand ISPs pay content creators for new content produced in Canada. It's sort of the equivalent of the recording industry's desire to put in place an ISP music tax, but for screenwriters for TV and movie content. On top of that, it has a nationalistic bent, that would limit certain foreign content from reaching Canadians in a ridiculous attempt to "promote" made-in-Canada content.

Sohmer points out why he felt forced to join the WGC against his better interest (he needed to in order to work on certain projects) and had mostly ignored them until they decided to push this dreadful idea for regulation. As he notes, what the WGC is trying to do is turn the internet into a version of television, with limited choices and strict regulation on content. He points out how disastrous this would be:
As someone who's been struggling with the television system for the last 3 years, I can tell you very explicitly: it simply doesn't work. It hampers talent, overpays "producers" while taking money out of the real talent budget and you inevitably end up with a watered down excuse for entertainment.

Why anyone would want to re-create the television industry is beyond me. That makes about as much sense as publishing a new newspaper these days, or putting together a new terrestrial radio station.

Say what you will about the web, and there is much to be said, it breeds innovation. The reason for that is because it's non-regulated, because an ass like me can produce whatever he likes, however he likes in an effort to entertain others. The majority of the things we try don't/won't/shouldn't work, but if 1 out of every 100 projects works, that's a success.

You simply can't do that in the traditional media system. It won't let you.
We see it time and time again. The organizations who benefited from the "way things used to be" will almost always work to force any new and innovative platform to be restricted, legally, to force a similar structure. Remember the laws that got passed when automobiles first came around that required people to walk in front of them waving red flags? Yup. The WGC's proposal seems pretty similar.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Ima Fish, Feb 10th, 2009 @ 8:28am

    "ridiculous attempt to "promote" made-in-Canada content."

    I grew up in the US near the Canadian border. And because of Canadian laws that require a certain amount of Canadian music being played on Canadian radio stations, I grew up listening to such diverse Canadian artists such as Loverboy, Triumph, and April Wine....

    Wait a second...

    That was a ridiculous law!

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 10th, 2009 @ 9:02am

    This is why...

    ...I stopped reading The Onion and BBSpot. The content industry's antics are so far out there that the satirists' columns seem reasonable by comparison.

     

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  3.  
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    Lincoln (profile), Feb 10th, 2009 @ 9:32am

    Re:

    Excuse me? Last time I checked, radio and television in the 70's was a lot different than the Internet today.

    Among other things, the barrier to entry on the internet is negligible, while it was (and still is) very difficult to break into the music business regardless of how good the content is.

    The CanCon rules had a significant effect for the better in my opinion but applying them to the Internet today would be a complete and utter disaster. I am absolutely sick of these people who think they should be able to regulate my access to content from other countries.

     

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  4.  
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    Thomas Jefferson, Feb 10th, 2009 @ 10:31am

    Jefferson on IP

    It has been pretended by some that inventors have a natural and exclusive right to their inventions, and not merely for their own lives, but inheritable to their heirs. But while it is a moot question whether the origin of any kind of property is derived from nature at all, it would be singular to admit a natural and even an hereditary right to inventors. It is agreed by those who have seriously considered the subject, that no individual has, of natural right, a separate property in an acre of land, for instance. By an universal law, indeed, whatever, whether fixed or movable, belongs to all men equally and in common, is the property for the moment of him who occupies it, but when he relinquishes the occupation, the property goes with it. Stable ownership is the gift of social law, and is given late in the progress of society. It would be curious then, if an idea, the fugitive fermentation of an individual brain, could, of natural right, be claimed in exclusive and stable property. If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density in any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property. Society may give an exclusive right to the profits arising from them, as an encouragement to men to pursue ideas which may produce utility, but this may or may not be done, according to the will and convenience of the society, without claim or complaint from anybody. Accordingly, it is a fact, as far as I am informed, that England was, until we copied her, the only country on earth which ever, by a general law, gave a legal right to the exclusive use of an idea. In some other countries it is sometimes done, in a great case, and by a special and personal act, but, generally speaking, other nations have thought that these monopolies produce more embarrassment than advantage to society; and it may be observed that the nations which refuse monopolies of invention, are as fruitful as England in new and useful devices.

    Considering the exclusive right to invention as given not of natural right, but for the benefit of society, I know well the difficulty of drawing a line between the things which are worth to the public the embarrassment of an exclusive patent, and those which are not. As a member of the patent board for several years, while the law authorized a board to grant or refuse patents, I saw with what slow progress a system of general rules could be matured.

     

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  5.  
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    Mark K, Feb 10th, 2009 @ 11:04am

    Woo.

    Glad to see that got noticed. Thanks for the plug, Mike.

     

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  6.  
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    TW Burger, Feb 10th, 2009 @ 2:10pm

    Writers Need an Audience to Survive

    As a Canadian writer of Web content (technical articles) I am against the concept of an ISP paying for it. I get paid by Web site owner who commissioned the work or by the advertisers on my site where I self publish, not by the ISPs that broadcast the content.

    Forcing ISPs to pay for content will make them filter it out and reduce the exposure of Canadian's writing resulting in loss of future income.

    I see this as limiting the audience and reducing my potential livelihood while making some small group of 'administrators' rich with the authors getting almost nothing.

    This policy guarantees the death of Canadian content on the 'Net. This already happened in television when the CBC was reduced to endlessly broadcast reruns of 'The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" during prime time in the nineties.

     

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  7.  
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    Denis McGrath, Feb 10th, 2009 @ 3:18pm

    And the earth is flat and 6000 years old, too.

    The problem with Ryan's anger is that it completely misrepresents both the issues at stake, and the proposals the Writers Guild of Canada is making. Everybody gets to have an opinion. But when it's not informed, it's not helpful. You can read what the WGC is proposing yourself at www.wgc.ca Or, if you want to read a thoughtful site from a Canadian perspective on creating web content, I suggest story2oh.com. The basic principle of CanCon is this -- a nation of 30 million with very little barriers cannot "compete" with a nation of 300 million and the greatest cultural machine ever produced. But those "hated" Cancon laws didn't just give you Loverboy. They're also the reason why you have Holy Fuck, Feist, Broken Social Scene, The Tragically Hip, Sum 41, Stars, Metric, New Pornographers, Basia Bulat, Of Montreal, and a million and one way-cooler Canadian buzz bands. It worked in music. It can work in other media too. You don't have to know about any of this stuff if you want to. But if you want to complain about it, you should actually know what the heck you're talking about. Otherwise you're just one more ignorant person on the internet talking smack about a subject they know nothing about.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 10th, 2009 @ 6:51pm

    Re: And the earth is flat and 6000 years old, too.

    wtf ?

     

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  9.  
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    The infamous Joe, Feb 10th, 2009 @ 7:47pm

    Re: And the earth is flat and 6000 years old, too.

    If you can't compete in the field you're in, you're in the wrong field. Period.

     

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  10.  
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    Denis McGrath, Feb 11th, 2009 @ 5:59am

    Then get ready to lose the entire economy

    A completely facile comment. From banking, to mining, to manufacturing, high tech, farming, airlines, oil and gas exploration, fishing, pharma -- just about every industry you can name receives support in tax breaks or regulatory protection from the Canadian government. Some of it in remarkably similar ways to the 'breaks' given the TV industry. The same banking laws that the banks complain about for unnecessarily restricting them also gave them protection from predatory competition, which is the main reason why we're not as bad off as the US in this depression. Yet. Throwing slogans around is very butch. But a little knowledge of how your economy works would be way sexier, brohim.

     

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  11.  
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    free movies, Feb 11th, 2009 @ 6:19am

    Glad to see that got noticed. Thanks for the plug, Mike.

     

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  12.  
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    Mike (profile), Feb 11th, 2009 @ 9:48am

    Re: Then get ready to lose the entire economy

    A completely facile comment.

    What? He points out a truth: that you should be able to compete, and you dismiss it?

    From banking, to mining, to manufacturing, high tech, farming, airlines, oil and gas exploration, fishing, pharma -- just about every industry you can name receives support in tax breaks or regulatory protection from the Canadian government.

    And that just makes it a good thing? Learn a little economics about just how much damage such protectionism does. It promotes bad behavior and weakens your economy.

    he same banking laws that the banks complain about for unnecessarily restricting them also gave them protection from predatory competition,

    Ok. Please explain how competition is predatory?!?

     

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  13.  
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    Denis McGrath, Feb 12th, 2009 @ 12:11am

    No, hey, it's awesome...

    that Bank of America and Citigroup would fail without a massive injection of money from the fed.

    Look. There's a hard truth here that I know is hard to understand if you've drunk the Kool Aid that government is always the problem and has no place in managing the economy, but the logical extension of the argument you pursue has brought not only the U.S. economy, but the world economy, to the brink of depression.

    "competiton" "regulation" "socialism" "free market" "market forces" -- all of these are just phrases. The path the United States has pursued, the laissez faire path, has not worked. In the strongest economy. Which means it just. doesn't. Fucking. Work.

    Without getting all ooggity boogity ooh it's socialism on your ass, the USA right now is in the midst of approving a bailout bill that MOOTS all arguments about government support and "free competition."

    There are plenty of economies -- including Canada -- that have opted for a managed path that was still capitalist, but less unfettered. Canada's banks will not fail. They do not hold bullshit mortgages. You know why?

    Because someone saw that something other than "competition" was going to be more effective.

    If you want to make arguments about broadcast policy or internet policy, that's great. But SHIT HAS CHANGED in the last few months. People expect, and need, more than the bullshit orthodoxies of "let the market decide."

    Again, and that's with the Yankee economy. The largest in the world.

    It's okay if you don't understand the ins and outs of an economy that's not the United States. But seriously, dude, stop with the fucking platitudes and bullshit like "explain how competiton is predatory."

    Or don't. But I'll tell you what. Before I explain the answer to that question, answer mine: "how is it that the United States, which always knows better, is driving the economy of the world into depression?"

     

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  14.  
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    Ryan Sohmer, Feb 12th, 2009 @ 2:41pm

    I believe that the CanCon laws hurt more than harm our creative business. They're the reason why we constantly get watered-down and poorly written fare and tv movies on Canadian television.

    I turn on CTV, CBC or Global these days, and I'm embarassed by what I see. Is this really the best that Canadian Content can churn out? Or are production companies just making whatever they can in order to get those Telefilm Canada dollars?

    I may be ignorant, but I'd rather book a job with a production company because I'm the best writer for the job, and not because they're being forced to hire a Canadian.

    It's a free market, ultimately, it should be the viewers who are making decisions. But we're not letting them.

     

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  15.  
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    Denis McGrath, Feb 12th, 2009 @ 3:07pm

    The "free" market of ideas

    There's so many things mixed into that blanket statement that it's really hard to generalize. Which is why, once again, you have to turn to a system where something similar was tried and allowed to work. Every gripe you land about CanCon on TV was levelled at CanCon on Radio in the 1960's. The simple fact is that you provide opportunity first, allow people to improve their craft and that leads to excellence. It has in music. Joke about Nickelback all you want, but it is industry support and maintaining a mass of artists here that has made Canada a place where you can have a Polaris prize, with people making cutting edge music.

    In TV, if you force writers and actors and creatives to go south to do good work they will. I could have gone myself, but made a concerted political decision to stay, because I looked at the political climate in the USA and decided that even though I'd have to fight harder to get something good made here, I could be more honest in my expressions. There are others who are trying to make that decision to.

    There are significant things stacked against us -- even with government support. NO other country has the US networks in their living room 24/7. Canadian private networks look on making programs as a nuisance. They want us all to shutup and watch the US programs they buy cheap. Which is fine when it's Sopranos, not so fine when it's Til Death or According to Jim.

    Everything is subjective, but I daresay if in 2009 you cavalierly dismiss all Canadian made shows as embarrassing or crap, you're not looking hard enough and what's more, you're out of step with the world. DaVinci's Inquest, and Corner Gas have garnered praise and audiences not just at home but down south too because they're different, and appeal greatly to a certain audience. So does the Trailer Park Boys. Slings & Arrows is a show that got one of the most fawning reviews I've ever read in the Times. Durham County is a show I enjoyed at least as much as Prime Suspect or Cracker. And ZoS, which is on Pay right now, is as compelling to me as Generation Kill ever was.

    If you hate Being Erica, that's fine. But if you'd never watch Grey's Anatomy in a million years, dumping on Erica as an example of a bad Canadian show is suspect -- because it's not actually for you, see?

    Across program categories, whether it be The Latest Buzz or Total Drama Island for kids, there are Canadian made shows that are wowing audiences. All over the world. Way out of proportion to our population.

    Every fall, the USA rolls out 15-20 new series, and 90 percent of them fail. Most of the stuff is crap because most of EVERYTHING is crap. It's a hard game.

    And yup, sometimes they don't hire the best writer for the job. And sometimes the producer shouldn't be producing. But the only way that changes is to keep the top talent here because they want to live in Canada and don't feel that they HAVE to go to L.A. to work. And that talent here is slowly pushing out the bullshit masters. You can choose to be part of that, or you can bitch. Your choice.

    The problem is not simple, and neither is the solution.

     

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  16.  
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    DM, Feb 25th, 2009 @ 11:57am

    Re: Then get ready to lose the entire economy

    Denis said, "But when it's not informed, it's not helpful. You can read what the WGC is proposing yourself at www.wgc.ca "

    In the spirit of being informed, WGC is asking for "merely" $97M/year. They represent 1900 Canadian writers. That's a direct subsidy of about $51,000/WGC writer/year. Nice!

    The WCG proses several recommendations in "http://www.wgc.ca/images2/WGC%20Presentation%20to%20CRTC%2002%2024%2009.pdf"
    In the spirit of knowledge, here are my recommendations:
    Recommendation #1
    I recommend the Commission refrain implementing any new subsidies nor increasing existing subsidies for Canadian content. This will prevent the direct and unfair transfer of wealth from Canadian consumers and content distributors into the hands of writers and producers.

    Recommendation #2
    I recommend the Commission phase out existing subsidies to writers and producers of Canadian content over a period of 5 years. This will ensure adequate time for writers and producers of Canadian content to develop agreements with content distributors based on market principles while not subjecting writers and producers to a sudden "shock" of eliminating the subsidies immediately. At the same time, it will start to form an environment where Canadian content producers create outstanding content Canadians actually want to see and hear because Canadians are willing to pay for it.

    Recommendation #3
    I recommend the WGC hire a better marketing team to ensure Canadian content is available to Canadians in existing and future distribution mechanisms.

    Recommendation #4
    I recommend the Commission implement a 5 year phase out of any current restrictions on broadcasters for Canadian content they are required to play. Broadcasters and distributors can then be free to air the type of content they wish. As a result of this, and because of the overwhelming desire to hear and see Canadian content the WGC professes to exist, television and radio distributors specializing in the distribution of Canadian content are certain to flourish. As a result, this will result in easy access to Canadian content as desired by the WGC.

    I could write more, but I've already exceeded my Canadian content quota, so I'm going to stop.

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 26th, 2009 @ 2:06pm

    Re: The "free" market of ideas

    "...if in 2009 you cavalierly dismiss all Canadian made shows as embarrassing or crap, you're not looking hard enough and what's more, you're out of step with the world..." LOL! Mr. McGrath, you write the statement quoted and then cavalierly dismiss programming you don't like. I'll agree with your taste in programming; but who are you to judge whether or not it's fine or not for According to Jim to be purchased and aired by Canadian networks? Thank you very much for not choosing what programming I think I want to watch or what musicians to which I want to listen or what art I wish to view.

    "I could have gone myself, but made a concerted political decision to stay..." Of course, the economic subsidy for your CanCon didn't enter into the decision. It's an easier life when someone fills your pockets with a subsidy, isn't it.

     

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  18.  
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    Download movies free, Jan 11th, 2011 @ 9:44am

    Download movies free

    There are plenty of economies -- including Canada -- that have opted for a managed path that was still capitalist, but less unfettered. Canada's banks will not fail. They do not hold bullshit mortgages. You know why?

    Because someone saw that something other than "competition" was going to be more effective.

    If you want to make arguments about broadcast policy or internet policy, that's great. But SHIT HAS CHANGED in the last few months. People expect, and need, more than the bullshit orthodoxies of "let the market decide."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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