TV vs. Film Rights (CBS vs. Paramount)

Discussion in 'General Trek Discussion' started by ToyBoxComix, Sep 20, 2019.

  1. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    In the United States, TV writing is work-for-hire. The studio owns the property and everything created for it. That's standard in every contract. It's different in the UK, where freelancers do generally own the characters and concepts they create (which is why the co-creator of K-9 for Doctor Who was able to do an Australian K-9 series without the involvement of the BBC). That, I assume, is why the fine print at the end of American movies and such says something like "So-and-So Studios is considered the author of this work under UK law."

    There's no reason it would be WGA policy; that makes no sense, because the WGA is a union that advocates for the writers, not the studios. If it were up to the WGA, probably the writers would own their work.
     
  2. plynch

    plynch Commodore Commodore

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    Of course. I meant the fact that the writers get residuals for creating IP they do not then own.

    Supposedly why TPTB couldn't use T'Pol in ENT -- have to pay Sturgeon's heirs. And other stories I've heard here of studio not wanting to use an earlier character/concept.

    If it's work for hire and writer doesn't own the IP, why/how does he or she get later payment?
    Obviously the studio would want not to have to pay. So why do they? Is it part of the WGA contract? Negotiated individually?
     
  3. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    It's not that they couldn't. Legally, they had every right to. But they would've had to spend more money to do so, and they chose a less expensive path instead. It's not a matter of absolute ability, just preference.


    Because royalties and residuals are a percentage of profit. You sell your IP and your labor in exchange for a cut of what it earns. The more times it's used, the more money it makes, and your compensation stays proportional to its value. It's the same reason a writer's or actor's agent gets a percentage of what they make rather than a flat fee. If their services help their clients earn more, then they get paid more in proportion.
     
  4. plynch

    plynch Commodore Commodore

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    wow, yes, I do understand what royalties and residuals are. I get some myself. I'm asking the mechanics. Is it worked out as a standard deal with each WGA contract? Do writers negotiate that themselves? (unlikely) How weighty are the residuals? They chose to use Mudd in DSC. Do Kandell's heirs get royalties/residuals? Curiosity. Looking for someone with knowledge of the mechanics.

    Also: original query: how much of IP ownership did Norway retain? I've heard GR sold his share of IP ownership early on. But Rod is still consulted/employed.
     
  5. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I don't know, never having written for television, but I assume it's a mix of standardized practice and how much a writer's agent can sweeten the deal.


    I'm not sure. Roddenberry wrote the "Mudd's Women" outline based on one of his story seeds from the 1964 series prospectus, while Kandel only wrote the teleplay. I think that would warrant a co-creator credit for Kandel and a share of the residuals for his estate, but I'm not certain.


    I think Rod Roddenberry formed his own company; he didn't inherit Norway. What I gather is that there's now a deal in place that requires involving the Roddenberry family as executive producers on any Trek production, but that wasn't established until sometime after Enterprise ended.
     
  6. FreddyE

    FreddyE Captain Captain

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    I´ve always wondered if that involves any real POWER or is it just a "paper tiger" as we say in german. A position thats basically nothing more then the credit, maybe some money and keeps a person "nice, friendly and docile" while he´s basically beeing ignored and the "real powers that be" do their thing...just like Gene was in the end.
     
  7. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I think that's a cynical way of looking at it. It's not that unusual for the heirs of a property's creator to retain a financial stake or an oversight/approval role, like the Tolkien family vis-a-vis Lord of the Rings productions. I don't see anything wrong with it.

    The problem with the label "executive producer" is that it gets applied to several unrelated categories of people -- senior members of the writing/creative staff, senior members of the production/logistics staff, senior directors, financial backers, production company/studio bosses, rights holders, stars with extra clout, etc. Many productions these days list a large number of executive producers, and only some of them are actually hands-on participants in the writing or physical production of the series. Shows are so expensive to make these days that they tend to need to sign on multiple production companies to co-finance them, and all the production partners get EP credits, which is why the EP lists can swell to 15-20 names. I'd say it's a fair rule of thumb these days that if you see a bunch of names credited as EPs, probably no more than half of them will be on the writing staff and the rest will be either on the logistical side (the work of turning the scripts into finished episodes) or on the business side (management and financial partners).
     
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  8. FreddyE

    FreddyE Captain Captain

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    Sorry, I didn´t want to imply that there is anything wrong with that per se. And I actually would love if the Roddenberry Familly had an approval role.
     
  9. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I just wish they wouldn't use the "executive producer" credit so generically, because it makes it hard to discern what someone's actual role is. It's strange to use the same credit for so many unrelated positions.
     
  10. t_smitts

    t_smitts Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Well, to be fair, much like George Lucas, Roddenberry was perfectly capable of coming with bad ideas. He was also capable of resisting good ideas that others had (like having a Klingon on the Enterprise or the plot of "Family", because apparently brothers can't be distant or estranged in the utopian 24th century).

    Besides, do you think something like the Dominion War would've gotten the approval of Gene or his family?

    That's Hollywood, baby!
     
  11. FreddyE

    FreddyE Captain Captain

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    Possibly because it sounds generically important to the audience. Maybe they could put something in parenteses..like "Executive Producer (Finances)", "Executive Producer (Day2Day Oversight)", "Executive Producer (Creative)", etc.
     
  12. FreddyE

    FreddyE Captain Captain

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    or Troi...with three breasts....*cough*. But one mans bad idea is anothers great idea :-)
     
  13. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    The thing to keep in mind is that Rod Roddenberry is not a writer. He and his partner Trevor Roth are producers, yes, but mainly on the financial/business side of the industry, not the creative side. (This is what I've been saying about the generic title confusing the issue.) So their role on Discovery (and presumably the other shows like Picard) is probably more along the lines of business partners and investors rather than participants in the creative decision-making.

    I imagine Rod R. has the option to offer input creatively if he wants, but having a say in the conversation is not the same as having veto power over the final decisions.
     
  14. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    I once came close to being listed as a "producer" on a TV series just because I edited the book the series was to be based on. Alas, the deal fell through . . . .
     
  15. STR

    STR Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Even after the split they had the same parent company. It why the Trek movies always went to Paramount, rather than bid out to any studio. So it's not really a financial issue because payment is just shifting money from one of the owner's pockets to another. That is, at best, an accounting annoyance, but these companies deal with that stuff all the time.

    The issue has been intracompany politics and the fact there really hasn't been a compelling reasoning to use any JJTrek narrative or characters.
     
  16. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    No, my understanding is that Paramount Pictures was granted the Trek movie license at the time of the split, as their compensation in the divorce settlement, so to speak. As is usually the case with such licenses, they retain it as long as they continue making Trek movies, which is why they put a new movie series into development so soon after the split rather than letting the franchise "rest" like many people wanted back then. (It's like how Sony gets to keep the Spider-Man license as long as they don't stop making Spider-Man movies, which is why they keep making them.)
     
  17. Jedman67

    Jedman67 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Paramount also retained the license to distribute and re-release the entire Star Trek film library; which was TMP through Nemesis at the time.
    Staff writers get credited for the episodes they write; which I assume includes some royalties or residuals. They do not own license or rights to items they create as part of their staff writing job, under 'work for hire' contracts. Freelance writers who's pitch gets produced into a show get writing and author credit to the specific elements they created.
    It's speculated that when Alex Enberg was cast on Voyager, they changed his name from "Taurik" (TNG: Lower Decks) to "Vorik" so as to not have to pay royalties and such (cf: Tom Paris/Nick Locarno)
     
  18. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    That's unlikely, because the story writers of "Lower Decks," Ronald Wilkerson & Jean Louise Matthias, also wrote the story for the episode that introduced Vorik, so they would've been paying the same two freelancers regardless of which name they used.

    My understanding is that they changed the name because they felt "Taurik" was too similar to "Tuvok." (Although before I learned that, I thought it was probably because it sounded too much like "Torres.")
     
  19. Jedman67

    Jedman67 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Ah that makes sense.
     
  20. kennysmith

    kennysmith Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    My name is Kenny Smith from rancho Cordova CA and I did look into that subject both of them have both parts of the copyright's but they is not telling no one who name it is in?, And after 25 years it was to be for everyone. If you want to talk with me. Leave me a message with a email I can send you a email back with my cell number and we can talk about this subject?.