Writers' strike will not be as simple to resolve as it was in 2008 - The UpStream

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Writers' strike will not be as simple to resolve as it was in 2008

posted Sunday Jun 4, 2023 by Scott Ertz

For the second time in 15 years, we find ourselves in the midst of a serious writer's strike in Hollywood. During the 2007/2008 strike, the entertainment landscape was turned on its head. A combination of that and sabotage from another union brought the strike to an end without the Writer's Guild of America (WGA) getting anything it wanted and being set up for failure in modern times. The latest strike, however, is set to end differently, according to the WGA itself.

The 2007 writer's strike

In 2007, a major strike went into effect. It brought a lot of television shows to an abrupt halt. Some simply shut down, hoping to resolve the issue in time to finish their stories. Others destroyed themselves in a flaming blaze of chaos (I'm looking at you Heroes). The Guild had high hopes for the strike, looking to prepare themselves for what they saw as the future of the industry: the internet.

However, another union in the industry sabotaged their strike and, in turn, their goals. The Directors Guild of America (DGA) came to an agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) that they thought was good for them. But, because of a strategy the AMPTP had of dividing the different parts of the industry, they managed to force the WGA to accept the same deal. However, it didn't work out for the WGA at all. It set them up for a failure situation in the world of streaming, making it difficult to make a decent living in the modern entertainment world.

The 2023 writer's strike

Now, we find ourselves in the midst of another writer's strike. At the 1 month mark, the WGA is making it clear that it will not be bullied and that it will look out for its members no matter what happens. Another union is not going to be used to bully them into accepting terms that are against their interests.

They are currently renegotiating the same topic that was involved in 2007 - the internet. Only now, the internet has become both a friend and a foe. When it comes to content distribution, it's the go-to destination for high-quality content. Shows like Stranger Things have budgets equal to or greater than major films. But, the writers get almost nothing for content distributed this way. This is because the content distributed through the internet in 2007 was 4-minute mini-episodes (webisodes) of existing shows, like The Office. Today, though, it is the place to be.

On the other hand, the internet is posing a huge threat to their industry. The biggest fight they should be having is against the use of AI. The Guide wants to ban the use of AI writers for any project, which of course makes sense. With AI, they feel their jobs are in jeopardy. However, the real fight needs to be over the usage of their existing content to train their replacement. The union needs to make sure that its scripts are not being used to train AI systems. Other industries, including our own here, are at risk because our content is being used to train AI systems to steal traffic and viewership from us. The WGA is looking at the same situation.

The studios are not going to be easy in these negotiations. They want to use AI, and the only way it can be a success for them is to use successful movie and TV scripts to train it. But, that will be the death of an entire industry, and the end of an art form. Hopefully, the WGA will stand behind its convictions and fight this with everything it has.


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