Which Side Are You On -- Online? - InformationWeek

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Commentary
11/8/2007
09:54 AM
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Which Side Are You On -- Online?

Around NYC, it's become common to see a giant inflated rubber rat sitting on the sidewalk when a local union is sponsoring a strike. The Writers Guide of America, however, is a bit more sophisticated than that -- they're using YouTube.

Around NYC, it's become common to see a giant inflated rubber rat sitting on the sidewalk when a local union is sponsoring a strike. The Writers Guide of America, however, is a bit more sophisticated than that -- they're using YouTube.Not that they're alone. YouTube and other video sites are centers for advocates of any number of issues -- political, professional, or artistic -- to try to win over new advocates, or at least explain why they believe the way they do. For example, Michael Moore used YouTube effectively to urge the public to air their own health insurance horror stories when his film Sicko opened. Presidential candidates in both parties have YouTube channels where they can show videos of their candidates at various events and urge supporters to contribute and vote.

But it makes even more sense for the WGA to use the Internet to urge their case. After all, what they're striking for is mostly about how the profits from new media will be distributed. They're a bit concerned about that, especially since they apparently blew it when they struck back in 1988 -- they made concessions about who got a piece of the profits from DVDs, then a new and relatively unknown technology, and they've regretted it ever since. Now, writers want increased residuals from downloaded entertainment and to get paid for promotional airings over the Internet, among other things.

Interestingly enough, though, I couldn't find a lot of advocacy videos from the other side of the issue. I did a search on YouTube, for example, and the nearest thing I could find that offered an alternative point of view was a man (for whom I have the greatest sympathy) worried about the long-term effects of the strike on his company, which provides audiences for television show tapings. There were also a few viewers concerned that their favorite shows will be halted. But not a whole lot of "The WGA is wrong and we're right -- and here's why."

It could be that the entertainment companies don't feel they need public support for their position -- or think that when popular TV shows start to go into early reruns, the public will turn on the WGA. But in an age of cable TV, Netflix, streaming media, videocasts, and, yes, YouTube, it's going to take a lot longer for those of us outside the entertainment industry to run out of options.

In other words, this could prove to be a very long strike.

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