And Back To The Ellison/City Lawsuit...

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by Admiral Buzzkill, Dec 18, 2008.

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  1. Julio Angel Ortiz

    Julio Angel Ortiz Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    You're one of these "Ellisonites," are you? ;)

    In all seriousness, I think Christopher nailed it in his response to your post why Ellison's objections are silly at best. It'll be interesting to see how it ultimately plays out in court.
     
  2. William Leisner

    William Leisner Scribbler Rear Admiral

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    I think probably safe to say that no one else on this board has been to the Richard Maibaum archive in Iowa. It's also safe to say that if you have to go to a fucking archive in fucking Iowa to find a 900-page screenplay (as opposed to, say, walking into any restaurant in L.A. and asking the wait staff for copies of theirs), then a 900-page screenplay is an anomoly, most likely produced by someone who doesn't know fuck-all about writing screenplays.

    Wait, Harlan Ellison made a claim that, if accepted, would have benefited Harlan Ellison? Golly, then it must be true!

    We've got David Mack, Jim Swallow, TG Theodore, and probably a few more I'm missing off the top of my head. I've also written scripts and pitched to DS9 and VOY back in the day. And in some box somewhere, I probably still have my feature-length comedy script... which is nowhere near the length of a novel.
     
  3. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    B O L O G N A. There's this modern bias that novels are somehow superior to shorter forms, which is nonsense. Even great short story writers are badgered with questions about when they're going to write a novel, as if it's somehow more serious. :rolleyes:
     
  4. William Leisner

    William Leisner Scribbler Rear Admiral

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    :wtf: Uhh... the WGA went on strike just last year.

    Of course, Christopher's not a WGA member, so what this crazed mouth-foaming rant has to do with the price of tea in West Hollywood isn't exactly clear to me.
     
  5. ronny

    ronny Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    here's a great clip of ellison on youtube. he's talking about a studio wanting to interview for the babylon 5 dvd but didn't want to pay him since everyone else was willing to do it for free. he wouldn't do it.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mj5IV23g-fE

    on one had i'm annoyed because i'm loved the crucible trilogy and yesterday's son so sueing pocket books is screwed up but on the other hand he's an advocate for writers rights. i just don't know who to root for. so i'm guessing a court will decide.

    on the upside i think i saw a post here, i think by KRAD, saying the authors themselves don't have to pay the laywers fee's, that's the publishers deal according to the contracts, so if he feels he has a case i'm willing to let a court decide.

    he sued because he said a the terminator was based on a couple of outer limits episides he wrote, i don't see it myself, but a court agreen and he now gets credit.
     
  6. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Channeling Roddenberry, eh?

    I've read Ellison's 1st draft City. Even it is filmable. I'm tired of this nonsense about the script. Ellison wrote many times for TV and flipping won the WGAw award FOUR TIMES (a record). He certainly knew how to write for TV.

    MY OPINION, having studied film for years and read tons of screenplays, is that what the Trek staff didn't like was some of the content that Harlan wouldn't budge on (Kirk hesitating to let Edith die), and they decided to make the script into something they wanted (which is not unusual in TV). But they've used these dumb excuses about the budget and "unfilmable" and "Scotty selling drugs" to justify what they did, rather than just flatly say: "we wanted a different ending and we wanted a different tone."
     
  7. TGTheodore

    TGTheodore Writer Admiral

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    Ellison has continually failed to enforce his perceived copyright. You don't enforce it, you lose it. 40 years later?

    He's lost it. (In more ways than one, and if he ever even had it in the first place).

    --Ted
     
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2008
  8. Therin of Andor

    Therin of Andor Admiral Admiral

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    Ellison, IIRC, claimed that DC Fontana ("Yesteryear"), AC Crispin ("Yesterday's Son" and "Time for Yesterday") and Peter David ("Imzadi") had (magically/luckily) known to ask Ellison for permission to use the Guardian in their novels.

    I wonder about Barbara Hambly ("Ishmael"), because no one thought to get clearances for "Here Come the Brides", let alone Harlan. Or did Hambly know to ask Harlan herself?

    How would Pocket Books or Paula Block, David George or Marco Palmieri, who all worked on "Crucible" - know that Ellison had what he claims was an atypical contract from Desilu, especially after numerous Guardian sequels passed through production over several decades without a whimper?
     
  9. Trent Roman

    Trent Roman Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Damn, but I don't think I've ever seen a thread not on politics or religion turn so nasty so fast. It's as though mentioning the name "Ellison" is like tossing a grenade. I am the only one who doesn't get why this person stirs such passions? Did he save you from drowning? Rape your dog? Holy cow - how does one guy get to be best buddies or sworn nemesis with half the Internet? :wtf:

    Fictitiously yours, Trent Roman
     
  10. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    No, but the fact remains that if you're writing as a freelancer for someone else's show, you have a professional obligation to turn in a script that they can both use and that is consistent with the creative vision for their show. If Ellison wanted to do something that was unfilmable on their budget or that was inconsistent with their creative vision, he should have started up his own TV series.

    They treated him like royalty, and he treated them like shit back.

    Of course, all of that is separate from the question of whether or not his contract from 1966 gives him ownership of the characters he created for "The City on the Edge of Forever."

    You are now ranting about something that has nothing to do whatsoever with Ellison's failure to live up to his professional obligations.

    No, let's criticize him -- no one has villainized him -- for being unwilling or unable to fulfill his professional obligation to write a filmable script that was consistent with the TOS producer's creative vision and for then pretending that he was a victim for it.

    :rolleyes:

    There was a WGA strike not a year ago. Brought Hollywood to a stand-still. Hell, it's SAG that's balking at striking right now.

    It's completely fair to say that the writer ought to get both credit and money that's on par with the director, but it's not accurate to say that the director's work is less important than the writer's. Anyone who's ever seen how a bad director can butcher a good script, and how a good director can add to a good script, knows this. Directors and writers need to work in partnership, not rivalry.

    That sentence doesn't make sense at all. If you don't understand why Christopher isn't supporting Ellison, it ought to read, "... could be appalled...," not "... could be anything but appalled."

    And I think it's pretty classless of you to call a professional author with several novels to his credit "a writer who has had no success in the entertainment industry."

    Well, my days of not taking you seriously are certainly coming to a middle.

    ETA:

    It's my understanding that it's a trademark that you lose if you don't enforce it, not a copyright. Given that, Ellison's lack of enforcement on previous copyright violations is actually immaterial to the validity of his legal reasoning.
     
  11. Dayton Ward

    Dayton Ward Word Pusher Rear Admiral

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    "Hell hath no fury like the uninvolved."



    (Quoting another writer from an e-Mail loop, but I can't remember who said it.)
     
  12. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    But as you yourself say, those weren't remotely conventional shooting scripts. So what's your point? How does an admitted exception refute the rule?

    Script format is generally assumed to be roughly one page per minute, or a little more. So a feature-length screenplay is typically around 100-120 pages. And script format typically comes out around 250 words per page, give or take. So we're talking something in the vicinity of 25-30,000 words. That's the length of a novella. Novels tend to be three to four times as long.

    So you're using his own personal opinions as support for his position? That's entirely circular. If you want to cite evidence for one person's claim, it needs to come from independent sources to be meaningful.

    As others have stated, that's not true. I've written spec scripts myself, including a feature-length script, sort of.



    No. My main source is Inside Star Trek by Solow and Justman. Nobody who's read that book could believe they were simply mouthpieces for Roddenberry.

    As a very expensive feature film, sure. As an episode of a tightly budgeted 1960s television series? Not a chance.


    And there's nothing wrong with that. These were their characters and their universe. They had the right to have the final say over what was done with them. If I'm going to write in someone else's universe, then I understand that they know the characters and world better than I do, and I would defer to their judgment rather than arrogantly trying to tell them what to do with their own creations. That's just common sense and professional courtesy. If Ellison didn't want to defer to anyone else's opinions, then he should've never agreed to work on someone else's series in the first place. He should've stuck to anthology shows or created his own show. If you're playing in someone else's backyard, you agree to play by their rules.




    Just to be clear, I'm not criticizing Ellison for being unable to produce a filmable script. There's no shame in that. Prose and screenwriting are different media with different requirements and limitations, and not every writer can adapt to a different medium. The way I see it, Ellison's imagination was simply so grand and far-reaching that he was unable to constrain it within the limits of a television budget. If anything, that's a compliment. The problem was that the medium was simply too small to fit his brilliance.

    The thing I'm criticizing him for is reacting to a routine part of the collaborative process as though it were some kind of personal assault on his liberties, and for retaliating with a 40-year-long campaign of vilification. I'm criticizing him for his egomania and hypocrisy: he was one of Star Trek's most fervent boosters and defenders until they rewrote his words, and then suddenly it became the worst show ever made in his eyes (or at least in his rhetoric). His ego was bruised and he's spent half his life overreacting to that perceived slight. And that's just pathetic. Ellison's a great writer (or was in his heyday, before he started devoting more of his energy to rants and lawsuits than to prose fiction), but that's no excuse for being childish.
     
  13. OmahaStar

    OmahaStar Disrespectful of his betters Admiral

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    Excuse you? :wtf:

    You got a problem with Iowa?
     
  14. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    I do. I'm sick and tired of them getting to weed out candidates for president that I like before I get a chance to vote for 'em. :cool: But that's neither here nor there.

    His point is that Iowa is not a center of film-making, and that the remoteness of a script from Los Angeles is an indicator of the irrelevancy of that screenplay to accurately characterizing the nature of script-writing.
     
  15. Admiral Buzzkill

    Admiral Buzzkill Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Copyright does not require vigilant enforcement action to remain in legal force. Trademarks do. Big difference between the two.

    A copyright is in force for the natural life of the copyright holder plus a period after their death (at least fifty years under the Berne Convention).

    There is a three-year statute of limitations generally imposed from the last infringing act, and court rulings have varied concerning whether damages can be recovered from the entirety of the infringement or just the last infringing act. Not being a lawyer (unlike, apparently, a considerable number of fans who dislike Ellison or his cause) I'd be guessing if I said that Ellison's lawyers might argue that any abuse of his copyright by Paramount would be part of a single "pattern of infringement").

    :guffaw: Who do we see about making that the official motto of the Internet?

    Is it copyrighted? ;)
     
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2008
  16. Steve Roby

    Steve Roby Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Ah, another fun Ellison thread.

    To the pro-Ellison side:

    For the benefit of the people who are saying "what's so bad about Ellison not being a novelist?" -- the point is that Ellison has sold to publishers novels that he has not delivered. Back around 1981 I saw a publisher catalogue with a reproduction of the finished cover art and copy for the forthcoming Ellison novel Blood's a Rover. That's just one example.

    To the anti-Ellison side:

    It's entirely possible that Ellison had a non-standard contract on "City" that allows him special rights regarding the Guardian and Edith Keeler. He certainly seems to have had that kind of deal for his Outer Limits episode "Demon with a Glass Hand," given that he use material from that story in his own fiction and announced that there'd be a sequel to it in the form of a Babylon 5 episode.

    To the pro-Ellison side:

    But then, that B5 episode never materialized, did it?

    To both sides:

    IANAL, but this is one of two things: a copyright dispute or a contract dispute. I suspect that the contract issue has to be cleared up before the court can determine who actually owns the copyright in the story elements and characters. As for enforcing copyright -- i.e., why hasn't he made a fuss before -- ISTR that you don't lose a copyright by not defending it; that only happens with trademarks, not copyright. You don't sue people for violating your copyright because you might lose it, you sue them because they're making money on something you own and they don't. But again, I Am Not A Lawyer.

    ETA: I see Starship Polaris made the copyright point while I was writing this. Anyway, the point is, this is a legal dispute, there are plenty of precedents, things will be sorted out by the courts. It doesn't matter whether Ellison's an asshole or a victim. Or both. If he thinks he has a case, and he can produce his contract to support it, he has every right to take this to court, regardless of his motives or his personality.
     
  17. William Leisner

    William Leisner Scribbler Rear Admiral

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    Yes, it's entirely possible -- I'll even take the extra step and say it's probable -- that Ellison negotiated a non-standard contract with Desilu way back when. I don't know this to be true, of course, or what that special language might say.

    The thing is, though, there are people whose job it is to know. People in the Paramount/CBS legal department, and people in Paula Block's office. If there is something different about Ellison's contract, then any novel proposal crossing their desks touching on TCOTEOF should set off red alarms. Even if this old contract was forgotten for years after, Ellison's publication of his scripts and essays should have sent them digging through the files.

    CBS recently released The Fugitive on DVD with newly recorded incidental music, because they no longer have the documentation about which seconds-long piece came from which source, and who if anyone needed to be paid. There had not been a suit or threat of a suit, but they opted to commission new music out of an abundance of caution. I tend to doubt that the same lawyers would then opt to fight an actual black-and-white contract over unless the feel confident that is doesn't say what Ellison thinks it does.
     
  18. Rat Boy

    Rat Boy Vice Admiral Admiral

    This mean he'll come into my house and rip my Guardian ornament off my Christmas tree?
     
  19. Ward Fowler

    Ward Fowler Commodore Commodore

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    Yes. Then he'll scream at you like a crazy man and grab your female companion's tits.
     
  20. Allyn Gibson

    Allyn Gibson Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Arm yourself with jelly beans; that will keep Ellison at bay. :)
     
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