Wednesday, December 09, 2009

iPhone Apps 'go union'

From the Writers Guild of America East:
The writers of iLarious have just become the first writers of content for an iPhone app to be represented by a labor union, the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE). Under this agreement writers for apps such as “This Just In” (which delivers 10-15 jokes a day to the iPhone) will get to count their jokes written for the app towards WGAE health insurance and other benefits. Comedy writers covered by this new agreement hail from "The Daily Show", "The Onion", "Human Giant" and "Saturday Night Live" among other famous comedy programs.

iLarious went union because company founder and comedy writer Fred Graver is himself a member of the WGAE and knows how important union representation is to writers.
(How should I tag this post? 'Online content', which I've used before, doesn't seem quite right. A new category for mobile content? Apps?)


  1. An interesting question there, Tom. We still draw a distinction between movies and television, though often we end up watching them on the same screen. Ultimately I don't know if it's worthwhile to differentiate on the basis of the platform used. On the most basic level, what about a PDF that I could view on desktop, laptop, iPhone or Kindle, at my desk or on the move? Maybe best to just call it something like "soft" content, as compared to "hard" content that comes on a disk in a box. We won't have to bother about the latter for much longer anyhow ;)

  2. It doesn't make a difference on which platform one views copyrighted material, Dave. The WGGB's only concern is that whenever someone does, the writer gets paid. Or, as I like to put it, every time there's a hit, a bell rings and a writer gets their wings.

  3. I quite like the distinction between 'soft' and 'hard' content Dave - though people might get the wrong idea...

  4. Need a trade union to protect your residual rights as a writer? There's an app for that...

  5. Maybe we just need a term that points up how the old way of doing things is becoming obsolete - ie the way we nowadays just say "mail" or "snail mail". So we could refer to plain "content" (that's virtual material held and delivered over the internet) vs "clutter content" (that's the stuff that fills up your house).

    I'm currently hitting the problem that my publisher won't okay an iPhone deal because App Stores doesn't break sales down by territory. I say: this is the way the world works now, get used to it. My publisher says: we don't like the international online market, we want to stick to territories. Seeing as how App Stores have more customers than all the major bookstore chains combined, it's hard not to see the traditional publishers' approach as dinosaurian.

  6. Maybe your publisher should read this: No one told the dinosaurs, will anyone tell the publishers?

    Of course, the new Apple tablet (when it comes) will make these distinctions between types of content even less important.

  7. Hey Tom, seems to be a bad link there, I just get an error message?

    A friend of mine tried to set up a deal between his book publisher and an apps publisher to put parts of his book onto iPhone. The conversation went like this:

    Book publisher: We would need to specify an RRP.
    Apps publisher: What do you suggest?
    BP: How about $12, and we supply to you for $4.
    AP: Er... you supply *what* to us for $4?
    BP: Well, the disks.

    Incredible. And that's a major publisher with (supposedly) its own ebook division. It's stranger than any fiction I ever wrote.

  8. Yep, they just don't get it do they?

    The link works okay for me. Try

  9. Thanks, got it now. A very insightful article, though I get the feeling that even if the top execs at the major publishers were to read this, and even if they agree with it, they're trapped now by "the idiocy of the system" and simply aren't able to adapt as they need to. The future of publishing will belong to new, more agile companies. Which is why we all keep using the dinosaur analogy, of course.


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