Harlan Ellison Sues Again

from the it's-all-about-the-money dept

Harlan Ellison may be a well-respected writer, but he’s got something of a history of threatening and/or suing anyone who he believes is unfairly profiting off of “his” works. You may recall a while back that he mistakenly sued AOL when he discovered that fans of his (not that he’d call them fans) had posted some of his writings to Usenet. Yes, to Usenet. Not to any AOL property, but to Usenet. However, since he’d discovered it via AOL, somehow they were to blame… so he sued. And a court quickly explained to Mr. Ellison the DMCA’s safe harbors and the fact that Usenet isn’t AOL. Ellison appealed… and, amazingly, AOL eventually settled just to make him go away, knowing that even though the courts would reject such cases under DMCA safe harbors (and common sense), it was cheaper to just pay up.

This wasn’t just a one-off misunderstanding. Ellison has a long history of being economically and technologically illiterate about these sorts of things, as was made clear in this video that made the rounds a few years back:

In the video, he talks about how he doesn’t take a piss without getting paid, and screams about Warner Bros. Studios asking if they can use a video interview he did in the DVD for Babylon 5, which he worked on — and he demanded payment for it. When the woman pointed out that everyone else was doing it for free, he called them all assholes and then went on a rant about people doing stuff for free, talking about how he doesn’t do anything for free. Apparently, he missed the fact that the video was already recorded, so it wouldn’t be about any “work for free” because he wouldn’t be doing any work. The work was already done. Also, depending on who shot the video, it’s unlikely that WB actually needed to get his permission (or to pay him) to use the video, because he probably doesn’t own the rights to it, but that’s a separate point.

Either way, that’s all prologue to the news that Ellison is suing yet again. This time, he’s suing Paramount Pictures and the Writers Guild because he wrote an episode of Star Trek that aired in 1967, and Paramount hasn’t paid him for certain Star Trek books that include elements from that show or other merchandise like a (not making this up) talking Christmas tree ornament. He’s suing the Writers Guild because it apparently told him that he was nuts and they weren’t going to take on Paramount over this issue (he’s accusing the Guild of too narrowly interpreting its contract).

And, in classic Ellison fashion, his statement on the matter is all about the money:

It ain’t about the ‘principle,’ friend, its (sic) about the MONEY! Pay Me! Am I doing this for other writers, for Mom (still dead), and apple pie? Hell no! I’m doing it for the 35-year-long disrespect and the money!

Given these antics and ridiculousness, you have to wonder just how many folks won’t be hiring Ellison in the future, knowing he’s likely to blow up and potentially sue them, as well. You also should wonder how much “money” he’s missing out on from folks like me who will never buy any of his works. If it’s “all about the money” perhaps someone who writes sci-fi like Ellison can think about the future a little bit, and how many opportunities he kills off by demanding every penny today at the expense of dollars tomorrow.

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Companies: paramount, writers guild

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Comments on “Harlan Ellison Sues Again”

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Jack Mackenzie says:

Harlan is right and you are wrong

Why is it that writers; work is so devalued that when someone stands up for us he is vilified?

I am a writer. I make these stories, I craft them carefully and I sell them. I get paid for my stories. I also get paid is someone reprints my stories.

So if someone steals one of my stories and posts it somewhere where anyone can read it for free, this cuts into my personal profits and hinders the way I make a living.

If the big studios are justified in applying draconian measures to stop the pirating of their works (TV shows and movies showing up on Youtube, for instance) then why can a writer not similarly stand up for his rights to be acknowledged as the sole owner of his own intellectual property.

Harlan is hitting the studios with logic they understand.

The writer’s guild did not think that Harlan was nuts. They acknowledged that he was correct, that the original contracts did guarantee him the right to participate in Paramount’s profits when they were earned through the use of his work. Paramount did not live up to their own contract and the writer’s guild, though they knew that Harlan was in the right, did nothing to stand up for one of their members. Harlan is reluctantly suing his own guild for failing to go to bat for one of their members.

Creative work is different from other work, but it is work and the creator of that work is due something, especially when what he has made helps a big corporation get fat and rich

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Harlan is right and you are wrong

Creative work is different from other work, but it is work and the creator of that work is due something . . .

Why do you think that? What makes what you do different from what I do? Or what tens of thousands of other people do? Why should you get paid IN PERPETUITY for something, when I only get a measly paycheck? Do you somehow think you’re better than me, simply because you chose to be a writer (and not a very good one, I might add)?

Exactly what makes you so fucking special?

ehrichweiss says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Harlan is right and you are wrong

No, you’re avoiding answering the perfectly valid question:

Why should you get paid in perpetuity for your “creative work” when others, like myself, only get a paycheck for ours?

If you’re so creative and intelligent then you should have no problems explaining. Otherwise, you’re trollin’

Ima Fish says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Harlan is right and you are wrong

He’s not answering because you’re not paying him. As a writer he deserves to get paid for everything. Even taking a dump.

On a side note, all the talented musicians I know do it because they love it. They’d do it regardless of making money. I personally have never respected any so called artist who only does it for the money. That’s the kind of “artist” who comes up with crap like Hair Bands and Boy Bands. And episodes of Star Trek. Yeck.

Chronno S. Trigger says:

Re: Harlan is right and you are wrong

Are you suing for royalties on Christmas tree decorations from a TV show you wrote part of one script for? Are you flipping out and insulting people for them asking you for something? This isn’t about someone copying your work, it’s about this guy trowing a tantrum because he’s not getting payed for something he didn’t even do.

And I’m still saying, if he wants payed for decorations based on a show that he douse not hold the rights to (douse he even hold the rights to the part of the one episode he wrote?) than I want him to pay me every time he goes to the doctors office. Electronic Medical Records programs are a pain in the ass. It takes some real creative work to get that to run on each individual network to the satisfaction of every single doctor.

Even if he douse have a valid claim, he’s still an ass by talking that way in that video.

LostSailor says:

Re: Re: Harlan is right and you are wrong

Are you suing for royalties on Christmas tree decorations from a TV show you wrote part of one script for? Are you flipping out and insulting people for them asking you for something?

For Harlan, flipping out is SOP. As for the Christmas decoration, it depends on what his contract said: if he was entitled to a royalty for merchandise based on a Star Trek episode he wrote, then he should have been paid. That part is not a copyright issue, but a contract issue.

Michael Vilain (user link) says:

Re: Harlan is right and you are wrong

Finally, someone who can look beyond the messenger and whatever they’re wearing and saying and hear the message. So what if Harlan’s very angry and vocal about this. So what that the interview was already been done and he was already been paid for it. He gets paid if a story is reprinted. Depending on the contract, the actors and others who were part of B5 might get something from the DVD sales. I think that’s why they went on strike.

Why shouldn’t he get paid for this?

Mechwarrior says:

Re: Harlan is right and you are wrong

You didnt read the article, did you? Harlan is asking for money for things that he doesnt own, nor have ever had any rights to. The man made it obvious that he has no qualms about taking money that he doesnt deserve. In fact, what if Harlan sued you for using elements conveyed in a Star Trek episode that he wrote? Would you pay up because he owns part of your work?

LostSailor says:

Harlan is just being Harlan

Harlan has talent as a writer, but not so much as he thinks he has. As noted above, Harlan’s been this way for his entire professional career. Mike is a bit late to this party. Everyone in the SF industry, whether books, magazines, TV or film is well aware of who and what Harlan is. He’s never going to change. And while he may lose a case here and there, but he’s annoyingly successful much of the time.

How “well-respected” Harlan is, is an open question. But anyone who hires him knows exactly what they’re getting.

RD says:

erm, no

“So if someone steals one of my stories and posts it somewhere where anyone can read it for free, this cuts into my personal profits and hinders the way I make a living.”

Um….no. Colossal FAIL.

Copying is not stealing, its infringement. Do you only have ONE COPY of the work in question? Did they DEPRIVE you of that ONLY COPY? No? Then its not stealing. Doing something against the wishes of the copyright holder is infringement, and its not a crime.

Lets repeat that again for the ‘tards out there and those with below-average comprehension skills:


As to the other part, about how posting something of yours that might find A BIGGER AUDIENCE by making it “free” cutting into your profits, well, you simply have a bad business model then and havent figured out how to leverage a MASSIVE FREE AUDIENCE interaction to sell your product.

Perhaps if the text of your book were available “free” online, more people would see it than otherwise would, and some of them would then like to purchase the actual book, say a hardcover that sells for $25. Or a book-on-tape. Or a paperback. Or they read Book 1 for free and then BUY the others in the series.

If you havent thought about it this way or figured out a way to leverage the “Free” nature of the internet, then maybe you need to reconsider your career path. The world needs ditch diggers too.

Jack Mackenzie says:

Re: erm, no

so what you’re saying is that I should be thankful that someone copies my work out of a book or magazine and distributes it for free?

Well then how come the studios aren’t happy when someone copies their movies and puts them up on the internet? Maybe they should be thankful that even more people get to see their movies other than those of us who paid money to..

John Duncan Yoyo (profile) says:

Re: What I want to know is...

His lovely wife probably gives him a quarter.

His stories are generally pretty good- some are better than others. I don’t know if he has actually produced anything in years. He was supposed to write an episode of B5 that never materialized.

Harlan is a force of nature and I disagree with him as much as I agree with him. If he can get money out Paramount for this more power to him.

I do love the settlement he got from MARVEL when they ripped off a Twilight Zone he wrote as the plot and a shot by shot lift for an issue of the Hulk. MARVEL now is required to send him one of everything they produce.

Petréa Mitchell says:

Re: What I want to know is...

“Also, since I’m not a fan of Ellision, can someone here tell me if his writing is distinguishable from his other excretory activities?”

Yes, he’s justly renowned for his writing. He’s got 8 Hugo Awards and been named a SFWA Grand Master, and it’s hard to find anyone who thinks he doesn’t deserve all of that. That’s why he’s still around, why people still listen to him, why he still gets work. But, as noted elsewhere, his personality has a reputation too.

scott says:

An Ass but Not Wrong

The guy is an ass but he’s not incorrect about some of his points. He spent the time to give the interview. Everyone (and I mean everyone, including the person doing the interview) EXCEPT him got paid. Now someone else wants to reap more benefits from that interview and again he does not get paid. Now, had the original interviewers said up-front – we will use this for promotion, he could have negotiated payment (or not) at that time. But, after the fact someone says that want to line their pockets with his effort makes no sense to me. His point about “doing it for other writers” is valid too. If no writers stand up and get paid for their work, they will always be expected to give it away. This happen a lot in photography too. You take some great shots and people somehow expect you to just send them the file because it’s easy and “you have already done the work”. It’s bullshit. Each person should get paid their worth. If they chose not to, that’s fine. This guy wants to get paid and should. Some of you hate the messenger so you are hating his message. His message is sound for the most part. His delivery sucks.

Chronno S. Trigger says:

Re: An Ass but Not Wrong

Assuming you’re talking about the video, you missed.

He even said himself that everyone else was doing it for free. He told the lady on the phone to go screw herself and she hung up. Then he seemed surprised that she never called back. He was already payed for the commentary and he wanted to get payed again.

It’s like a photographer taking a picture of a wedding and then bitching that the pictures were put up on flicker. He was payed to be a wedding photographer but he still wants to get payed every time the pictures are used.

LostSailor says:

Re: Re: An Ass but Not Wrong

According to Mike’s description of what took place, the studio called Harlan asking permission to use the video and mentioned that everyone else was doing it for free. If they were asking for permission to use a video already shot, then there must have been some restriction on it’s further use. Harlan may be an ass, but it seems that it was within his rights (most likely by contract) to demand to be paid for further use.

And if the bride and groom didn’t get reproduction rights to the photographs as part of their contract with the wedding photographer, then the photographer would be within his rights to demand either payment or the removal of the photos from Flckr.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: An Ass but Not Wrong

Unfortunately, the contracts these photographers have give them all rights to the photos, so yeah. Of course they want to be paid again and again and again. Hell, you’re not even allowed to make copies of the pictures, you have to pay THEM for the photos of your own wedding. Over and over again.

Andrew Mayer (user link) says:

Harlan being Harlan

There’s a reason he hasn’t had very much television/movie work in the last thirty years, and you can probably guess what it is.

That said, I have a hard time trying to put the comments of someone like Harlan into a “copyfight” context. He’s been in the entertainment business for a long time, and he knows that no matter what contracts he signs he’s going to end up being ripped off, because that’s how the game is played.

His way is to take it back to them with bare knuckles every time. Asking for far more than he “deserves” is how he gets what he believes he’s justly owed.

He doesn’t care about the technology because he doesn’t need to. He a scrapper and a survivor who succeeded by fighting every step of the way while many of his peers ended up destitute or worse.

Belasco says:

Once he is dead (which should be within the next 7 years–long before this suit is settled) and no one is afraid of him calling them up in the middle of the night and/or suing them, look for a HUGE number of online first-person accounts of Ellison essentially being, well, a hypocrite, liar, bully and essentially emotionally/mentally unwell individual. It’s amazing the degree to which this man has trashed his legacy. Right up there with Chuck Berry.

yo says:

Mr Plumber I know you just fixed my sink but I’m not going to pay you or honor a contract between us. Instead, I’m going to tell all my friends what a great plumber you are so hopefully you will get imaginary future dollars. And if you sue me for not paying you then I will go tell my friends you are a terrible plumber and a terrible human being.

Yeah, that will end well.

hegemon13 says:

Re: Re:

Mr Customer, I know you have already paid Yo’s Plumbing Service for the repair of your sink. However, it is unjust that you continue to reap so much benefit off of our labor. Every time you turn on your sink, you have the benefit of running water that would not exist without our labor. It took a lot of creativity to fix the problem you created when you tried to fix that sink yourself.

So, from this point forward, Yo’s Plumbing Service is instituting a compulsory faucet usage license. Every time you turn on your sink, we will expect a “small” royalty. It is only fair for the effort we put into fixing your sink eight years ago. Please note that this license is limited and does not exempt you from liability for infringement should we determine that you are using your water for an unapproved use, or sharing it with others in an act of “public water consumption.”

Of course, any inventions aided or inspired by the use of your running water will be the sole intellectual property of Yo’s Plumbing Service, and we will aggressively collect any royalties due.

Phillip says:

Re: Re:


you can not equate real things to someone photocopying, scanning, whatever your work.

Mr Plumber can only be at one place working on one thing at one time.

However if pirate x copies your work that does not affect you doing business with citizen y.

You can easily argue both are wrong but that does not make them the same. It is wrong to cheat and it is wrong to kill but would you say that killing someone is the same as cheating?

Rogers Cadenhead (user link) says:

Harlan Ellison's Rep

Given these antics and ridiculousness, you have to wonder just how many folks won’t be hiring Ellison in the future, knowing he’s likely to blow up and potentially sue them, as well. You also should wonder how much “money” he’s missing out on from folks like me who will never buy any of his works.

As someone else said, you’re late to this party. There’s nothing Harlan Ellison could do at this point that would damage his rep. He’s been combative and litigious for decades. Anyone who would let either of those things stop them from dealing with Ellison has already done so.

RD says:


“Well then how come the studios aren’t happy when someone copies their movies and puts them up on the internet? Maybe they should be thankful that even more people get to see their movies other than those of us who paid money to..”

Way to go, NOW you are getting it!

Say it with me now….the more people that know your work, THE MORE POTENTIAL PEOPLE YOU CAN SELL YOUR STUFF TO!

Also, Dark Knight made more money than any movie in history (except Titanic) and was heavily downloaded at the same time. This it not an issue of “Free” its an issue of LEVERAGING “free” to make MORE.

PaulT (profile) says:

Harlan Ellison seems to be a talented guy, but he’s clearly also an asshole who has no idea when he’s killing his own career. I have nothing to back up the claims made above about the fact that his behaviour has made him unemployable (i.e. he’s sacrificed future successes to make money from previous work), but I wouldn’t be surprised. He’s one of the rare artists I respect, but would never buy anything from because I don’t want to encourage this kind of behaviour.

Case in point: Ellison sued the makers of The Terminator because they supposedly borrowed from his Outer Limits scripts. Now, I haven’t seen the episodes in question so i don’t know what the similarities are. Unless someone else can correct me, I seem to remember that they were also rather generic (e.g. soldier sent back in time to protect the future, etc.). Even if I’m wrong, many of the things that made Cameron’s first film a success had absolutely nothing to do with Ellison – Schwarzenegger’s breakout performance, Stan Winston’s fantastic designs, Cameron’s ability to make the movie look much bigger than its moderate budget, etc.

Because of Ellsion’s reaction, I’ve not read any of his work. I’m not a massive sci-fi fan (horror’s more my genre). Maybe I’ll pick up some of his work in the 10p bargain bin for old, worn books at my local second-hand book store but otherwise I’m not really interested. It helps that I’m not, say, interested in picking up a season of Star Trek he worked on, but he’s not going to get a penny of my money, ever. I’d rather give my money to someone who’s interested in creating something new rather than whoring off works he did 40 years ago.

Sean M says:

You also should wonder how much “money” he’s missing out on from folks like me who will never buy any of his works.

You can count me among those people. I’ve had his works (especially Ender’s Game) recommended to me more times than I know. But I refuse to read even a borrowed copy because the guy is such a complete ass.

On the other hand, I’ve downloaded and read several works by Cory Doctorow and even purchased the ones I really liked to support him. Now there’s a guy who “gets it”.

hegemon13 says:

Re: Re:

That is sad for you. You are missing out on perhaps the greatest single work of science fiction of the 20th century. I don’t know why you think Card is an ass, other than being obsessively controlling over the film rights for his works, and that is a matter of him not wanting Hollywood to mangle them. But, even if you don’t like him, borrow a copy or buy one at Goodwill. Card gets nothing, and you get the enjoyment of a spectacular book.

James Keegan (user link) says:

Okay, the point of residuals is simple. I do a piece of work (writer, musician, actor cameraman, etc…). If the finished product were to be performed only once such as a stage show or live television, then I am only paid once. But if it is re-sold, then a contract is drawn up to determine how the money is distributed based on the profits of the sale. Let’s put this in 9-5 perspective.

You work at McDonalds. You come up with a clever way to sell a Quarter-Pounder. McDs thinks this is great! They record you making the sale, fire you and use the recording to sell the QP to every customer. Now you were paid for a days work but McDs continues to profit off of your efforts but in millions. If they had let you continue working, they would have made the money but would have been required to pay your days wage. But you were fired.

At the end of a performance, all of the artists and techs are in effect fired. But the film/record/book publisher continues to sell your work at a large profit (one hopes). Isn’t it logical that each time they sell your work, you should be compensated? To what degree is up to you.

As we fight for and develop our personal reputation (hopefully based on skill and character) we constantly battle the new guy who will do it cheaper to get in the door. Normal, this is part of the process as long as it does not devalue the art form (meaning, we still know the difference between the pro and the amateur). If the artform is devalued, the pro becomes obsolete and the amateur still doesn’t make any money and never will.

Nothing worth having is truly free! Stop kidding yourselves. If art doesn’t cost money then how do you judge its value? By the number of people who want it? Okay so if everyone believes the artist is great but nobody pays him/her then the artist is effectively nothing. You cannot produce if you have no money.

Just because record/film/television companies are poorly managed does not mean art is free.
Stop trying to make art free!!!!


grapeshot (user link) says:

Re: Re:

Hello! What planet do you live on?

That’s EXACTLY how it works for people who work for large corporations. If I work for MacDonalds, and come up with a great idea for selling more burgers, then that idea belongs to MacDonalds, and yes, they get to keep using that idea in perpetuity. Or, to provide a more practical example, if I work for a manufacturing firm, and I devise a more cost effective way to manufacture one of our line of widgets, the patent (or the copyright, if it’s a paper that would be published) belongs to my firm. That’s the terms of employment, and if I don’t like it because I think it’s unfair, too bad. I can go find employment somewhere else. But good luck trying to find a company that won’t make you sign a document stating that they own whatever you invent while collecting a paycheck from them!

Really, the naivete of you creative types about the real world the rest of us live in is enormous.

I’ve done some creative writing, and yes, it is hard. Pulling characters out of your ass, and devising plots out of thin air isn’t very easy at all. But I would not say that it’s harder than my day job working for The Man.

So you can see why you la-di-da creative types whining about residuals don’t exactly get a lot of sympathy from the rest of us wage slaves.

LostSailor says:

Re: Re: Re:

The MacDonald’s analogy is inapt. Residuals (and even royalties) are not copyright issues, but are contractual issues. Residuals have been negotiated between various unions and guilds and the studios or producers.

If you’re a studio or producer and don’t want to pay residuals, then don’t include them in the contracts with the people you employ. You probably won’t be able to hire any union or guild members, but that’s your business.

Same goes for writers: royalties are a contractual issue between a writer and a publisher. If the contract calls for royalties to be paid, it doesn’t matter if the content is 50 years old: if the publisher is still selling it and earning revenue, the writer should get paid.

hegemon13 says:

Re: Re:

Way to use a ridiculous, impossible example. Sorry, but a sales pitch can never be perfect for everyone, and the success is in the delivery, not the words.

Pick a scenario that might possibly exist in the real world, and your argument makes more sense. Then again, your argument is so wrong-headed that I don’t think that would help.

Phillip says:

Re: Re:

This is exactly how the real world works.

You create/improve something for your employer it is theirs.
You only get paid for your time and if you have a good employer you MIGHT get a bonus of some type for helping out the company. However, you will not get paid every time your employer makes money off of what you did.

Also, you can not take your work with you to the next employer. The work came while they were paying you for your time so they own the product of that payment.

This is how the real world works. You do a job you get paid for it then. You do not get paid for some work you did even a week ago let alone years ago like musicians and writers and the like.

Cordwainer Bird says:


Ellison is absolutely right and you are absolutely wrong. Creative people — writers (real writers, of course, as opposed to “bloggers”), actors, musicians, graphic artists — make a living by producing a product. If the artist isn’t paid when his work is used, the artist loses money, and has every right to seek compensation. How hard is that to understand? And you’re misrepresenting the facts, anyway. One of the news-servers to which Ellison’s work was posted belonged to AOL. They were culpable for Contributory and Vicarious Infringement, because though the ISP took down the violating material, AOL did not.

As for your ad hominem attack, Ellison is one of the most highly awarded and prolific short story writers and essayists in America, but doesn’t need me to defend him. Incidentally, he seldom writes actual science fiction. Is he litigious, obnoxious and frequently unplesant, even in social situations? Yes. But since when is “demanding every penny” one is owed a bad thing?

How about I take this insipid article and include it in my next bestseller, and get rich? That’s ok with you, isn’t it? You won’t expect a cut will you? After all, it wouldn’t be “work for free,” since the article is already written. Thanks.

Mike (profile) says:


Creative people — writers (real writers, of course, as opposed to “bloggers”), actors, musicians, graphic artists — make a living by producing a product.

No, that’s not correct. They make a living by producing a product AND THEN employing a business model that works in the market.

If the artist isn’t paid when his work is used, the artist loses money, and has every right to seek compensation.

Also incorrect. As we’ve been showing for over a decade, smart artists have learned how to give away certain works for free to make much more money in the long run. There is no “loss.”

How hard is that to understand?

I understand just fine.

As for your ad hominem attack, Ellison is one of the most highly awarded and prolific short story writers and essayists in America,

Which ad hominem would that be? I said that he’s a well-respected writer? That’s an ad-hominem?

But since when is “demanding every penny” one is owed a bad thing?

When it harms your ability to make money.

How about I take this insipid article and include it in my next bestseller, and get rich? That’s ok with you, isn’t it? You won’t expect a cut will you? After all, it wouldn’t be “work for free,” since the article is already written. Thanks.

Yes, as we’ve said 1000 times already, that would be great, and no we don’t expect a cut. Please go ahead and use it!

Thanks for appreciating our work so much that you would like to make use of it!

Nelson Cruz says:

Doesn't want to "work for free" but wants a DVD for free!

I love it when he complains people don’t go to the gas station, etc, and ask to be served for free, and then goes on to complain people don’t send him a DVD *for free*!!! Yeah, the nerve of those people to suggest that he could go to the store and *buy* the DVD! Oh, the nerve!

He wants everyone to pay him for everything remotely related to things he worked on (like the Christmas tree), but then wants people to send *him* their work for free!

Quick! Somebody put Harlan Ellison’s photo on the wikipedia entry for Hypocrite!

Jerry at the Movies (user link) says:

Re: Doesn't want to "work for free" but wants a DVD for free!

I can’t comment on the Christmas tree oddity from Star Trek, but the DVD could and should be sent to him for nothing, with respect to either having the interview shown on the B5 DVD or get paid instead. Do you think film critics pay for the movies they see? No, they get to see them for free or at least the newspaper or mag pays for it, and pays for their review. Same idea.

Yo says:

Sure, hegemon13, I wouldn’t SIGN THAT CONTRACT with YO’s Plumbing either. But if I did and he performed the work and then I didn’t pay him for it. He should sue me and win. If someone signed a contract with you to pay you money, no matter what the circumstance, you would expect to be paid. Especially if the people you signed the contract with very large movie studio’s who ain’t hurtin’ for money.

I’m a journalist I don’t get paid when the AP uses my story but I can’t and won’t sue. You know why because I didn’t have a good enough contract and didn’t have a union to watch my back and get me More money.

Nobody works for free. Well, nobody with any sense works for free.

Marcus Knightslayer says:

It's very simple...

Regardless of what you think of him, this is very simple. Harlan had a contract with Paramount that stipulated certain payments and rights assignments. Paramount has not honored the terms of those agreements, or tried to ignore them outright. While Harlan does not own a stake in Trek, by WGA rules, he (as well as any writer) is entitled to compensation for any later use of his writing, and any further use of original characters he created – which means they owe him is they use The Guardian of Forever and Edith Keeler outside of the original episode.

Like it or not, it’s that simple.

Joe says:

But it's OK to screw writers and other creative types

Much of the comment in this “discussion” is from people who don’t even know how to spell or how to write a simple, grammatically correct sentence. As little old lady said to the pope after he finished announcing his opinions on sex, “You no play-ah dah game, you make-uh dah rules.”

You have no appreciation for the anger that a writer feels when he sees his work sold and resold IN VIOLATION OF THE LAW AND HIS CONTRACT by greedy corporations who steal because they can get away with it. I have watched my work be stolen – yes it theft even if you don’t think so – and profited from by the New York Newsday, Newark Star Ledger, Chicago Tribune, Cigar Aficionado Magazine, Business News NJ Magazine, just to name a few of the greedy bastards.

I doubt that a single one of you who are so nasty on this subject have ever done a single creative thing in your life.

You offer ridiculous excuses for your empty ideas. Just because some writers or singers or musicians make money by using giveaways as promotions, it does not follow that someone who chooses to be be paid should therefore start allowing other people to profit from his work without compensation or even the courtesy of asking for permission.

Expecting income from the use of past work is not really all that different from a landlord expecting rent. No one is forcing anyone to use the creative work or to live in a certain building. But if you do, you pay.

If you don’t want to pay, go find someone willing to give his work away or a landlord who will let you build on his land and rent out the building. You may have to read or listen to crap. The open land you build on may be a cesspool. But hey, it’s free.

Of course, you may discover that there are no books worth reading on your shelf or magazines at the dentist. The movies you get for free may be eye-junk. The free house you live in may lack a bathroom or electricity.

But if you want to steal my work, the bread off my table, I’ll fight you. And any sensible landlord will evict a deadbeat.

Monarch says:

Re: But it's OK to screw writers and other creative types

Joe, you ignorant puke. Out of all the rants I’ve read here, yours actually incited me to post a comment.

Many of the people who have posted have done creative things.

Hell, I was in the movie Volcano, I’m on screen for a few minutes and you even get to hear me moan in pain. I only worked one day on that film, but I had my own dressing room in a trailer, was treated like royalty by the crew, and got paid fairly well. But.., I never received one royalty payment. Didn’t even get my name in the credits. Why, because I got screwed in my SAG contract. Could I have filed a complaint with SAG, and probably gotten paid and some royalties, maybe even gotten my name in the credits of the movie? Probably. Did I do it? Nope. Why? Because of the point Mike was making with this post. I was fairly new to Hollywood, I was just starting to network, and I didn’t want to soil a reputation that was just getting started.

Oh, and guess what? I did a whole lot of work on film crews, actually more than I did acting. I have my name in the credits for a number of movies and TV shows, some you’ve probably seen. But, get what, MOST of the crew don’t get royalty checks on film and TV. They get an honest days pay for an honest days work. I can’t stand people like you and Harlan Ellison, and it’s the reason I’m no longer in the entertainment industry.

I was a member of SAG and AFTRA back in the ’90’s. I had a casting company that was doing pretty well. Lots of sub-contracts for bit parts for the bigger casting agents. Then SAG went on strike and killed my business. On top of that, because SAG was on strike, I couldn’t even fall back on making some quick pocket money doing extras roles. So I ended up in the computer industry. Very happy with what I’m doing now, and getting paid a decent wage for being a network engineer. But when writers and actors go on strike, I still get pissed. Why? Because, I know, from first hand experience, all those people in the credits that role at the end of movies, and the myriad of people behind the scenes for television shows, are out of work, and most of them don’t get unemployment checks, and for F*CKS sake, they DO NOT get paid royalties for the past creative projects they helped produce.

So Joe, you and Harlan, and the rest the whining little f*cktards can shove it up your arses. There are PLENTY of very VERY talented people waiting in line behind you that could use the exposure and break, and most of them will do it for very little money, because they just want to do it. God only knows how many actors, writers, directors, and musicians do student films and free shorts and so on and so on, just in hopes that they will get seen by someone who can take them to the next level.

LostSailor says:

Re: Re: But it's OK to screw writers and other creative types


If you’re willing to work for the exposure and no residuals or on-screen credits, that’s entirely your affair. If the Writers Guild or SAG goes on strike, yes, it does hurt others working in the industry that are not union members (and it actually hurts many of the union members as well), but perhaps they should organize themselves to get a better deal.

If you were happy with your film work and the compensation you received, that’s great. But most people who work for the exposure when starting out do so in the hope and expectation that as they succeed in the business, they will get the extended compensation and other benefits of union contracts. But no one is guaranteeing that success.

I’m sorry it didn’t work out for you.

zusykses says:

Re: But it's OK to screw writers and other creative types

Expecting income from the use of past work is not really all that different from a landlord expecting rent. No one is forcing anyone to use the creative work or to live in a certain building. But if you do, you pay.

It’s pretty much exactly the same mindset. Widespread rent-seeking has become the enemy of an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. I mean, you’d have to be a chump to spend 30-40 years of your life working a 40-hour week minimum when you can just stake out a piece of intellectual ‘property’ and collect the cheques for the rest of your life, right?

(Also, in reply to someone else’s comment, I’m pretty sure Orson Scott Card is a douche because he’s a raging homophobe, not because of his views on IP.)

James (profile) says:

Harlan Ellison: Creativity Destroyer

Aside from his books, the thing he’s most known for is writing what every fan acknowledges is the best Star Trek episode in existence, “The City on the Edge of Forever.”

In almost every commentary on that episode or any other Star Trek episode dealing with time travel, it’s noted that no one revisited his thrilling story with a follow-up (at least not officially, anyway) in ANY of the following episodes or any of the subsequent movies or spinoff shows, nor did they ever use the character/plot device of the Guardian of Forever (despite its incredible popularity) simply because no one wanted to deal with him at Paramount. I believe, I don’t remember exactly but I’m pretty sure, I read somewhere that even JJ Abrams, when writing the upcoming Star Trek movie wanted to use that plot device but was unwilling to deal with Harlan himself.

It’s also why, even though all of the Star Trek actors, directors, other writers and production staff were at the WGA protests last year, and even though they all typically appeared together in videos covering the event, no one appeared with Harlan.

Now granted, he’s entitled to what was agreed upon in the first place between himself and (at the time) Desilu Studios for the episode he wrote. Legally though, once the package is put together everything becomes Paramount’s property. If they make money on it, the writers get some money for it (not sure how much or how long). That’s it though. Harlan’s mistaken belief that he somehow controls the characters and plot of his stories and that he ought to get paid any time derivative works are used is simply ludicrous.

Perfect analogy: he’s put all of his characters and plots and plot devices and other such creations behind a paywall. If/when he frees his content we’ll see more creative adaptations and uses of these things.

bowerbird (profile) says:

i am pro-free. i believe in it strongly.

i have hope that artists can transform society
from its greedy state to a gift-exchange basis,
thanks to the miracle of cost-free reproduction.

you can’t beat someone over the head, however,
to get them to give you a gift. it just won’t work.

i find it difficult to see why harlan should “work”
for free, when nobody else is. they needed him
more than he needed them. do you expect me to
side with warner brothers instead? i think i’ll pass.

i’m gonna take a piss now. hey, no need to pay me. :+)


Anonymous Coward says:

There seems to be a very persistent blending of two different kinds of claims to rights in these comments. One, is the claim to a right to be paid in accordance with what a contract states you will be paid for your work. Your rights are spelled out in the contract, which one hopes will be fairly adjudicated and interpreted in light of what it actually, explicitly says, not what one of the signers would have preferred it to say. Two, is the claim to a right to be paid in addition to what you contractually agreed to be paid. There is no justification for any such rights claim as #2. If there were, why would the artist or writer be the only one entitled to rewrite the terms of the contract for his own benefit? Why not also let the studios or publishers extract new requirements from the creator, based on their intuitions about what the contractual terms “should” have been? This is the issue. Not whether Ellison deserves, by his own reckoning, residuals for a Star Trek episode or for a Christmas tree, but whether he is contractually entitled to the new payments. Since we don’t have the contracts in front of us, we can’t say conclusively whether Harlan Ellison is going beyond the terms of his agreement in any particular case. But if he all along had a contractual right to residual payments for his “STar Trek” episode, why did he wait so long to claim them? I suspect that he was never actually granted any such permanent percentage.

Many of the suits I’ve heard about sound like nuisance suits. “Pay me somthing and I’ll go away.” There didn’t seem to be any justice in Ellison’s extraction of money from the creators of “The Terminator,” for instance.

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