Friday, January 30, 2009

A Copyright Doesn't Make a Wrong

My Great Aunt Rose, who lived to the ridiculous age of 92, resided in a one bedroom apartment at Yonge and Eglinton for over 40 years. In her later years, I did her grocery shopping every week not just out of familial duty, but to visit, have a shot of whiskey and a laugh.

One day, between cigs and an ounce of Jameson, she fixed her zealous eyes on me. “I saw your commercial on TV again.”

“That’s good. More money for me.”

“What’ja mean?”

“I get paid every time it airs, Aunt Rose.”

Her bright blue eyes went wide with disbelief. “You do? For that?”

“Yeah. I get residuals.”

“For that. To look like an idiot putting dishes in a sink?”

“Er, yeah.”

She took a drag of her smoke and shook her head. This challenged her Irish Catholic notion of life being a vale of tears. Someone actually making money for a television repeat, no actual toil involved?

I drained my glass and skulked out of my aunt’s place that day, feeling more of a scallywag than usual.

Isn’t residuals part of payment for creative work?

Now that I find myself in the internet and Web 2.0 game, I realize how unregulated this great frontier is.

The WGA writers’ strike was in large part over DVD residuals and compensation for new media e.g. content written for or distributed through digital technology like the Internet. While access to ideas, compositions and art is a wonderful thing, the people who create the work still need to feed themselves.

For every lousy commercial I landed I auditioned eighty times. For ever comedy special I did for television (2), I struggled doing sets in bars with names like The Beefeater and McSorley’s. Residuals aren’t free money, but payment for honing and practicing one’s craft.

This is all a whiny way of me leading you to this CBC Radio link and a stimulating discussion on intellectual property. This is important stuff, for while marketing is rapidly becoming “content” itself, its raison d’ĂȘtre is to promote the work and the ideas of others. And those ideas need nurturing a.k.a. filthy lucre to percolate.

By the way, that dish soap commercial kept me in TTC tokens and No Name instant coffee for two years. Coffee I shared with my aunt.