Now that the new video iPod and iTunes 6 give the user the ability to download TV shows for a small price ($1.99), an interesting problem is brewing. And it’s the worst kind of trouble… Union trouble.
You see, according to CTV.ca, actors and writers are lining up and asking the question “where is our cut of this new iTunes service?”. Here’s an excerpt from the story:
In a show of unity, five unions representing actors, writers and directors issued a joint call for talks to make sure their members get a cut of revenue generated by the sale of TV shows on Apple’s iTunes software. The unions sent a clear message to TV producers. “We have not yet heard from the responsible employers of our members,” their joint statement said. “But we look forward to a dialogue that ensures that our members are properly compensated for this exploitation of their work.”
This all raises a pretty good question… should actors (and I’m just going to focus on actors here for the sake of simplicity) be entitled to royalties at all? Should performers be continually paid money when they’re done performing their jobs?
I want to be both careful and clear here. I love actors. I have a couple of very dear friends of mine who are actors and me raising this question is in no way meant as an insult to the work that any actor does. But in all fairness… it is a question that can be legitimately asked.
I’m not going to pretend to understand all the ins and outs of how actors receive royalties. I’m sure it varies. So I’m really asking this question from a principle standpoint… not a details stand point. So here I go…
When a person takes a job… any job really… they agree to perform a certain task in exchange for a certain amount of money. We all understand this. Once we’ve performed our task, and subsequently paid our money… then it’s done. A delivery driver is paid for the work he did delivering 21 pizzas last night. A handyman is paid for fixing a porch. A plumber is paid for installing new pipe. I give him my $200 and hope I never have to see him or his crack again.
However, actors (as well as numerous other professions… but remember… I said I’m just focusing on actors here for simplicity) in television and film have an arrangement where they get paid for thier work… but then continue to get paid as the program or movie continue to be shown. Royalties. Should this be the case?
Why should actors continue to get paid for 2 months of work 3 years from now when they were already paid for their 2 months of work? A carpenter doesn’t make an executive boardroom chair and then say “Thank you for the $500 to make this chair. Remember, that I also want 2.1% of any business deals you make while sitting in this chair”. That would be silly.
A painter gets paid $5000 for re-painting an office top to bottom. He doesn’t then go on to say “Now, don’t forget to send me cheques for 1.3% of any new business you get. Afterall… the new paint job that I just did for you is going to continue to help your business image and therefore I’m entitled to a cut”. That would also be silly.
So why is it just accepted that Film and Television actors should be continuously paid this way? They got hired to do a job… they showed up for their 3 months of filming and got paid for their time. Shouldn’t that be the end of it? Why at this point should any of them be entitled to royalties from anything (including tv shows getting downloaded from iTunes)?
I don’t ask this question rhetorically. I’m really curious as to what you think about it… and how you would answer it (for or against).