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December 11, 2007

A Change Is Gonna Come [9:59 am]

Because a fight like this is only going to mean that they all lose: Screenwriters Dig In for an Extended Brawl

After days of haggling over complicated formulas for Internet pay, the latest round of talks blew up over the deeper issues that had been buried inside the writers’ contract proposals.

Accusing guild leaders of pursuing “an ideological mission far removed from the interests of their members,” representatives of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers expressed outrage over continuing demands of the writers that were not strictly related to pay.

These include requests for jurisdiction over those who write for reality TV shows and animated movies; for oversight of the fair-market value of intracompany transactions that might affect writer pay; and the elimination of a no-strike clause that prevents guild members from honoring the picket lines of other unions once a contract is reached.

The tone of shock in the producers’ statement seemed a bit artificial, as Mr. Verrone has for months laid out his plan to elevate the writers’ industry status. Yet their anger is genuine. Executives know that to concede the writers’ noneconomic demands would lead to a radical shift in industry power. [...]

An LATimes column points out the pending threat: In the strike, the studios are playing to winpdf

The studios have little to lose by stonewalling, since it’s all too clear that they can win any prolonged strike. Their pockets are too deep, their weaponry too strong. But at what cost? Even many studio supporters admit that squashing the WGA after a prolonged strike would be something of a pyrrhic victory. If network TV turns into a 24-hour reality TV and game show channel, it will simply accelerate the trend of young viewers deserting the tube for the Internet.

For the writers, their best defense now is a good offense. As I’ve argued before, their future lies in becoming more entrepreneurial. This would also be good strategy for future strike negotiations. With the studios stuck churning out reality sludge, the barriers for entry for an outsider are lower than ever. What’s to stop Google, Yahoo or Mark Cuban from striking a deal with a top TV show runner who has a proven ability to create characters and stories that would bring eyeballs to the Internet?

I suspect the guild is already in the process of setting up interim deals that would allow writers to work with companies not represented by the studios. It would be a way to show the WGA rank and file that other opportunities exist outside of the traditional studio model while sending a message to the other side that, when it comes to negotiating, the guild has other arrows in its quiver.

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A Strange Gamble [9:08 am]

After all, selling on the basis of something that no one can define is always going to be a problem. Worse, as the article points out, it’s not like user privacy is under Ask.com’s control anyway: Ask.com Puts a Bet on Privacy

Will privacy sell?

Ask.com is betting it will. The fourth-largest search engine company will begin a service today called AskEraser, which allows users to make their searches more private.

Ask.com and other major search engines like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft typically keep track of search terms typed by users and link them to a computer’s Internet address, and sometimes to the user. However, when AskEraser is turned on, Ask.com discards all that information, the company said.

Ask, a unit of IAC/InterActiveCorp based in Oakland, hopes that the privacy protection will differentiate it from more prominent search engines like Google. [...]

[...] But underscoring how difficult it is to completely erase one’s digital footprints, the information typed by users of AskEraser into Ask.com will not disappear completely. Ask.com relies on Google to deliver many of the ads that appear next to its search results. Under an agreement between the two companies, Ask.com will continue to pass query information on to Google. Mr. Leeds acknowledged that AskEraser cannot promise complete anonymity, but said it would greatly increase privacy protections for users who want them, as Google is contractually constrained in what it can do with that information. A Google spokesman said the company uses the information to place relevant ads and to fight certain online scams.

Some privacy experts doubt that concerns about privacy are significant enough to turn a feature like AskEraser into a major selling point for Ask.com.

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