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Harlan Ellison Sues For "Star Trek" Episode 483

Posted by kdawson
from the dangerous-visions dept.
Miracle Jones writes "The ever-quotable speculative fiction writer Harlan Ellison has launched a lawsuit against Paramount and the Writer's Guild West for rights to residuals surrounding his famous and award winning 'City on the Edge of Forever' episode for the original Star Trek series. Ellison, recently featured in the documentary 'Dreams with Sharp Teeth,' said that 'The Trek fans who know my City screenplay understand just exactly why I'm bare-fangs-of-Adamantium about this.' Regarding his lawsuit, he had this to say: 'The arrogance, the pompous dismissive imperial manner of those who "have more important things to worry about," who'll have their assistant get back to you, who don't actually read or create, who merely "take" meetings, and shuffle papers — much of which is paper money denied to those who actually did the manual labor of creating those dreams — they refuse even to notice... until you jam a Federal lawsuit in their eye. To hell with all that obfuscation and phony flag-waving: they got my money. Pay me and pay off all the other writers from whom you've made hundreds of thousands of millions of dollars... from OUR labors... just so you can float your fat asses in warm Bahamian waters.'"
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Harlan Ellison Sues For "Star Trek" Episode

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  • wow (Score:5, Funny)

    by Shakrai (717556) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @07:32PM (#27234727) Journal

    Tell us what you really think dude ;)

    • Re:wow (Score:5, Funny)

      by Jeremiah Cornelius (137) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @07:43PM (#27234887) Homepage Journal

      "REPENT Harlanquin!" Said the FatCat man.

    • Re:wow (Score:5, Interesting)

      by fm6 (162816) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @07:51PM (#27234969) Homepage Journal

      This is nothing special for Ellison. He does this in every conversation. HE ordering breakfast: "No I will not have coffee. Enough with people offering me coffee. It is time those of us who like orange with breakfast to take a stand ..."

      If you've ever wondered where the over-the-top language on Babylon 5 comes from, well, JMS learned his art at HE's feet.

      Two questions: why is this coming up now? Yeah, the Star Trek franchise always ripped off its writers. That's why the writing started out good in the first episode of the first series and went steadily downhill from there. But why this particular episode and why now? It's not like it's anything special. Yeah, it's a decent story, but I always have to fast-forward over the parts where Joan Collins preaches about space travel to the tramps in her soup kitchen.

      And also: Harlan, who are you to complain? You've been stalling the writers who contributed to Last Dangerous Visions for thirty years. At least your Star Trek episode actually got seen!

      • Re:wow (Score:5, Funny)

        by Shakrai (717556) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @08:01PM (#27235081) Journal

        Yeah, Hollywood has always ripped off its writers

        Fixed that for you.

      • Re:wow (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @08:16PM (#27235265)

        why this particular episode and why now?

        Apparently a series of book have been released based on characters and situations from that episode. His contract specified that if such a thing were to happen, he would be paid. Paramount didn't pay him, even though he says he's been trying to get them to pay for a while. And the guild didn't defend him like they're supposed to. So after some months of going back and forth, he decided to sue them both (the guild for just $1 though).

        So that's why.

      • Re:wow (Score:5, Informative)

        by psiphiorg (566033) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @08:19PM (#27235309) Homepage Journal

        "why is this coming up now?"

        Because a recent novel trilogy—Crucible by David R. George, III—was based significantly on that episode (among others). The books came out in late 2006, and Harlan announced at that time that he was planning to sue Pocket Books/Paramount to either scrap the books or get gobs of money.

        As for why it took two and a half years from "I'll sue!" to actually suing, I'd imagine that his lawyer(s) tried negotiating with Paramount/Pocket first.

        davidh

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by StarkRG (888216)

        Two questions: why is this coming up now? Yeah, the Star Trek franchise always ripped off its writers. That's why the writing started out good in the first episode of the first series and went steadily downhill from there. But why this particular episode and why now? It's not like it's anything special. Yeah, it's a decent story, but I always have to fast-forward over the parts where Joan Collins preaches about space travel to the tramps in her soup kitchen.

        Why now? It's not now, it's just continued from when he turned in the first draft. It really got heated after the first rewrite. I believe Ellison threw the first verbal punch but Roddenberry didn't hold back either.

        Why this episode? Had you actually read the original you would not ask this question. When compared to the original script the aired version is like a bazooka bubble-gum comic version of A Midsummer's Night's Dream.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by MightyMartian (840721)

        Ellison is to SF what Stallman is to open source.

        'Nuff said.

    • by TheMCP (121589) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @01:26AM (#27237519) Homepage

      A few years ago at Worldcon, a famous SF author told a story about Harlan Ellison. It seems that Ellison once asked a friend and fellow SF author what he thought about his (Ellison's) latest book, and the friend told him, in polite terms, that he didn't feel it was Ellison's best work. Ellison never spoke to the man again.

      But that's not the end of it. Years later, Ellison had a heart attack, and the former friend sent him a note to express that he was sad to hear it had happened and wish him a swift recovery.

      Ellison wrote him a nine page letter to reject his get-well note.

      I'm fascinated to see what's in Ellison's books, what comes from the mind of such an angry man that could fascinate people for generations, but I'm waiting for him to die before I buy any of them, I don't want to give him any of my money.

  • Oh Slashdot (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @07:34PM (#27234741)

    This is not YRO. This did not happen online. The summary is so bad that I'm not even sure that this is about his rights.

    • Re:Oh Slashdot (Score:4, Informative)

      by Dewin (989206) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @08:40PM (#27235533)

      This is not YRO. This did not happen online.

      It's been argued numerous times in the past that "YRO" means "Your rights, discussed online" not "Your online rights."

      I subscribe to the former school of thought myself.

      • Re:Oh Slashdot (Score:5, Insightful)

        by dAzED1 (33635) <brianlamere@y a h o o . c om> on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @09:01PM (#27235787) Homepage Journal

        is there a non-online version of this forum that things are discussed on, then? Because your online rights (your rights while online, your rights online, etc) makes sense. Adding the completely pointless "discussed online" bit makes no sense; of course it's discussed online. Is there a "ask slashdot, online" option too? How about "hardware, discussed online?" "Science, discussed online?" No?

        Oh, well then, let's go with the option that actually makes sense.

  • Hmm... (Score:5, Funny)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @07:34PM (#27234743) Journal
    He has a mouth and he must sue...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @07:36PM (#27234763)

    Get over it. Your copyright should have expired anyway by any sort of good definition of limited term.

    • by westlake (615356) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @09:24PM (#27236003)
      Get over it. Your copyright should have expired anyway by any sort of good definition of limited term.

      The lawsuit is based on the master Writer's Guild contract in effect in 1967.

      The contract defined who was entitled to be credited as a writer. It defined the writer's share in derivative works and merchandising.

      It doesn't matter who owns the copyright on the script as broadcast.

      The geek is abysmally naive about copyrights.

      He forgets who owns the master prints. The trademarks that protect logos, character designs and props.

      He forgets that Disney or Paramount has a corporate line of credit. Production facilities. Talent. Marketing and Distribution.

      The screenwriter - the pro - never - forgets that without a strong union - without out a strong contract - the studios will find ways to profit from his work for all eternity.

      The Last Dangerous Visions, the third volume of the anthology series, has become something of a legend in science fiction as the genre's most famous unpublished book. It was originally announced for publication in 1973, but other work demanded Ellison's attention and the anthology has not seen print to date. He has come under criticism for his treatment of some writers who submitted their stories to him, of which some estimate to be nearly 150 (many of the authors have died in the subsequent three-and-a-half decades since the anthology was first announced). Harlan Ellison [wikipedia.org]

  • I really... (Score:5, Funny)

    by AresTheImpaler (570208) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @07:38PM (#27234807)
    I really enjoyed the Star Wars [penny-arcade.com] stuff he wrote...
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Q: What would you say to a little fuck?
      A: Hello little fuck!
    • by gknoy (899301)

      I'd forgotten reading that story a long time ago. It just goes to show you that it's often better to start off being polite to other people.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Lumpy (12016)

      HOLY CRAP! you just gave me, well Gabe actually... my tagline for the next 2 months...

  • hmm (Score:3, Funny)

    by Tumbleweed (3706) * on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @07:39PM (#27234825)

    A writer and his dog-and-pony show.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    To hell with all that obfuscation and phony flag-waving: they got my money. Pay me and pay off all the other writers from whom you've made hundreds of thousands of millions of dollars... from OUR labors... just so you can float your fat asses in warm Bahamian waters.'"

    Is there an actionable contract dispute here or is this guy just ranting since he is on the short end of the Hollywood stick? Guess what, dude, we all are.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @08:04PM (#27235121)

      I don't know what is contract said, but if he's like most of us it's called "work for hire" and he's already been paid. Unless he has a contract that promises a percentage of the future royalties and licensing he's just upset that he didn't negotiate said type of contract back in the day.

      How many of us negotiate compensation not as $120k/year but as 1/4% of future royalties?

      Yep.

  • Yup (Score:3, Insightful)

    by WiiVault (1039946) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @07:43PM (#27234875)
    This is a perfect illustration of the problems facing content creators (artists). Because of the "industry groups" (read: cartels) all being in cahoots, creative types are forced to work under their unfair practices. Things like not paying performers for online distribution because it is "promotional" could not happen in any other climate. Sadly the entertainment industry is so involved in the US economy and politics that right now the only thing artists can do is suck it up and hope that things someday change. The more people like this guy who come forward and shine light on these tactics the better.
    • by geekoid (135745)

      Are you high?
      What other industry do you get paid over and over again for work you have already done?

      Do your work on the internet, if it is really good you can work it.

      Shit, I wish I got paid every time MS made a sale that had my code in it.

      • by WiiVault (1039946)
        Let me get this straight. You believe that despite what the contract says, which usually affords a percentage of every sale to the artist, that it is ok for the distributor to just keep making coin off it without giving you a dime? You do realize Star Trek is still syndicated, sold on DVD, and available on demand. You realize Paramount is still making big buck off this right?

        If you sign a contract for a lump sum, fine. But almost nobody does that.

        If you don't see the problem with labels/studios circumve

        • by geekoid (135745)

          That's not what I am saying. Just the implication that someone is getting ripped off becasue they didn't get paid for work that have already done, in and of itself, is wrong.

          Obviously if he has a contract that covers DVDs, then he should get royalties for said DVDs. That's only IF it is covered. The contract shouldn't be amended after the fact.

          Now you can argue DVD's didn't exist then so how could he know? He couldn't, but the wording may have been open ended. Like "All distributions" or some such.

          OTOH, spe

      • by john83 (923470)

        Are politics in the US so right-leaning that the very idea that someone might demand a percentage of the income derived from his work is worthy of a retarded comment like, "Are you high?" An author can sell his work for anything he likes. If they unionise, they can make demands for terms they wouldn't get individually. Hence the writers strike last(?) year.

        I'm not amored with the idea of IP, but it's the business model the movie industry is built on. As long as that's the case, it's not in any way unreasona

        • by john83 (923470)
          Just read the article. I don't think he has a case - he was working under a agreement where he didn't have those right. I really doubt he'll win jack shit.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by MikeBabcock (65886)

        What you're experiencing is being part of a younger industry than writers. Writers have been around a lot longer, and in the modern era of mass redistribution, have come up with pretty good guild rules and some good collective bargaining too.

        If programmers got together, we'd come up with some silly way to give our code away and not get paid at all instead ... oh wait, never mind.

        In all honesty, I think modern Copyright rules suck, and I think Free Software is awesome, but of course the latter is dependant

      • by MrHanky (141717)

        Are you high?
        What other industry do you get paid over and over again for work you have already done?

        In any industry based on mass production in which you own the product you make. Stop complaining; most writers aren't nearly as well paid as your average code monkey, even though they do get to keep ownership of their work.

      • Re:Yup (Score:4, Insightful)

        by RobotRunAmok (595286) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @08:24PM (#27235365)

        What other industry do you get paid over and over again for work you have already done?

        What industry do you get paid vacations? Yours? What industry can you show up for work, surf the web, and be otherwise unproductive for two-three hours so long as you steer clear of the PHB? Yours? What industry do you get -- I love this one! -- "sick days," where you can make a phonecall to some suit and then stay home under the covers and still be paid the same amount of money that week as if you had had 40 productive hours? Yours?

        Or you can try being a writer. Sure they get residuals, money for something they've written a while back. Does that make up for not being paid for the sick days, Christmases, vacations, overtimes, whatever other downright wacky (when you think about it) conventions of the modern workplace in which they do not share? Maybe, maybe not. But the writers knew what they were getting into when they started their careers, same as the corporate clock-watchers. Seems a bit wrong to change the rules somehow...

  • by Chyeld (713439) <chyeld AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @07:43PM (#27234883)

    On one hand, we have the tired old story of a writer/creative not receiving due credit for his work. On the other hand, said creative is possibly the most obnoxious asshole still living that I've known of.

    On the third hand, this is Star Trek.

    God, I'm so conflicted here, who do I want screwed over the most?

    • Re:On one hand... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by roc97007 (608802) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @07:49PM (#27234953) Journal

      > On one hand, we have the tired old story of a writer/creative not receiving due credit for his work. On the other hand, said creative is possibly the most obnoxious asshole still living that I've known of.

      Yes, but he is a very eloquent asshole and his rants are high entertainment. Besides, being an asshole doesn't mean he's wrong.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by stiggle (649614)

        I so need to become a plumber or electrician in Hollywood - just so I can demand due credit & payment for my work and get residual payments everytime someone uses a tap or flicks a switch....

        These residual payment demands by writers and actors for work that they've already been paid for is starting to really annoy me. If you've been paid for the work then shut up and go do something else more productive than whine about how nobody has paid you yet again for something you were paid for back in the 1960'

      • Re:On one hand... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Chyeld (713439) <chyeld AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @08:01PM (#27235089)

        Actually, all kidding aside, yeah he is (wrong). Amusing, possibly. But wrong, definately.

        He did the work under contract. Just as the work I do under contract isn't mine, neither was his. He's pissed because back then, he agreed to such a setup (or more accurately the Writers Guild agreed, which he was a member of), but legally he's got about as much ground to stand on as someone living in New Orleans during Katrina.

        That's the beast, and it's been that way for a long long time. Artists own their work, employees don't. He chose to go the route of sure food and became an employee. Now he want's the lottery winnings of being an Artist. Someday they might make it work that way, but I doubt that day will be today, or tomorrow.

        • by Lumpy (12016) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @08:49PM (#27235623) Homepage

          Harlan has tilted at windmills his entire life.

          This is where he is happy, fighting the impossible fight that gives him the limelight one more time...

          I will never forget my personal berating at the hand of the man. The profanity he spouted when I handed him a book to sign, he signed it and when I got it back I said in jest, "Wait I though you were Kurt Vonnegut"...

          He came unglued.... It was spectacular.

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Awesome. And you're not the only one... [penny-arcade.com]

            So Tycho and I are up in front of the audience with Harlen, and Hank (the con organizer) presents us with some jester hats (âoeFoolâ(TM)s capsâ). Tycho and I put ours on because we are polite, but Harlen - who is apparently too cool for school - refuses to wear his. I turn to him and say, âoeDonâ(TM)t you want your hat?â and he tells me to fuck off. This caught me off guard, I mean I have no clue who this fucking coot is. Then he points t

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Quothz (683368)

          Actually, all kidding aside, yeah he is (wrong). Amusing, possibly. But wrong, definately.

          He did the work under contract. Just as the work I do under contract isn't mine, neither was his.

          His claim is that his contract did, in fact, give him rights to a portion of any licensed publication rights, and that these were not paid. Paramount, further, refuses to even give an accounting of licensing. I'm not sure why you think he'd be bound by your work contracts.

    • Re:On one hand... (Score:5, Informative)

      by TrekkieGod (627867) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @08:08PM (#27235167) Homepage Journal

      On one hand, we have the tired old story of a writer/creative not receiving due credit for his work. On the other hand, said creative is possibly the most obnoxious asshole still living that I've known of.

      Well, let me simplify things by giving you a bit more information. City on the Edge of Forever wasn't written by Harlan Ellison. Oh, Harlan Ellison did write a TOS episode called City on the Edge of Forever, which included a drug dealer, multiple humanoids guardians of forever, a pirate ship that replaces the Enterprise when the timeline gets changed, the bad guy being stuck in a supernova explosion, and a Captain Kirk who doesn't actually make the decision to let Edith Keeler die, thus forcing Spock to step up to that role.

      I read the original script once. It was horrible. The adapted script took the Edith Keeler character and the overall general idea, then made the script good. Harlan Edison made a lot of noise about them spoiling his brilliant script, and then later published the original. Now he has the gall to say that, 'The Trek fans who know my City screenplay understand just exactly why I'm bare-fangs-of-Adamantium about this.' No. The Trek fans who know his original screenplay think he should thank the studio for paying him for his original script and for letting him keep the credit as writer. He doesn't deserve a penny of residuals for the actual episode. Forty years later, he really shouldn't get anything anyway, but if he is entitled to something, its royalties from his published original version.

      • by Chyeld (713439) <chyeld AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @08:16PM (#27235267)

        With your nick, I shall take you at your word. ^_^

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by TrekkieGod (627867)

          With your nick, I shall take you at your word. ^_^

          Hah. Well, despite my name, I've made mistakes in the past and I probably should have provided a reference [wikipedia.org]

          And here's the book [amazon.com] I mentioned he published.

      • Re:On one hand... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @09:23PM (#27235985)

        .. and a Captain Kirk who doesn't actually make the decision to let Edith Keeler die, thus forcing Spock to step up to that role.

        I remember seeing Harlan Ellison talk about this particular point. He was so adamant regarding why logical Spock was the only one able to do this, and how the show's producers totally ruined the script when they rewrote it so Kirk had to let her die. But in my mind the rewrite is perfect in the way it defines Kirk's character in a nutshell - the ultimate devotion to duty and "what's right" above all else, and the self-imposed purgatory that comes with it.

        • Re:On one hand... (Score:4, Interesting)

          by MightyMartian (840721) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @10:02PM (#27236313) Journal

          There's a reason it's pretty much universally hailed as probably the very best Trek script, of ToS or the spinoffs, and that's precisely because of what you said. It's an incredible bit of tragedy, dare I say a Shakespearean moment. It also goes a great distance to defining Spock and Kirk's relationship. When Spock defends what to Bones seems like an insane action of allowing her to die, Spock demonstrates his fundamental empathy with Kirk; nowhere else is Spock's underlying "humanness" so clearly, and yet with understatement and respect for the character, made. This isn't Spock infected by some weirdo alien virus losing his composure, this IS the logical, contained Spock seeing his friend's unbelievable pain at allowing the woman he loved to die to save the future.

          Only once after that did Shatner's acting approach the sublime; and that was in the otherwise so-so Star Trek III, when he finds out his son has been murdered. For the most part, Shatner was an over-actor, although I suppose it did fit the character of Kirk (or more likely, Shatner put his own stamp on the character).

          At any rate, I think I'll watch the episode again, and ponder, whatever it's murky origins, how The City On The Edge Of Tomorrow is the greatest of all the Treks.

      • Re:On one hand... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by gilroy (155262) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @11:00PM (#27236669) Homepage Journal

        Thank goodness. I thought I was all alone in feeling this way about Ellison's "City" script. It's a steaming turd of poor writing that respects none of the conventions of the show in which he brutally tried to shoe-horn it. It makes characters act in uncharacteristic ways, gets preachy at the wrong moments, and all in all just plain sucks. I'll go further: I haven't read anything by Ellison that even remotely justifies his reputation as a mover-and-shaker in science fiction. It's all pretentious, tedious, smug crap. He's just someone who caught the New Wave and rode it for all it was worth, and was catapulted far beyond his meager talents.

        Harlan Ellison is a nightmare from which science fiction is waiting to awaken.

    • by jd (1658)

      Look, this should be very easy. Think the Star Trek prequel. Isn't it obvious Paramount should be hung out to dry as punishment?

  • Harlen (Score:4, Funny)

    by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @07:47PM (#27234923) Homepage Journal

    Is it in your contract? No? too Fucking bad, boo hoo, you shouldn't sign contracts you don't agree with.
    You whiny pain in the ass.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by fm6 (162816)

      Not going to defend Ellison (whom I despise) but the contract is neither here nor there. Hollywood studios are really good at fiddling the books so that they don't have to pay people. The contract can say that they have to pay $5 for every dollar of profit, and the writer can still get hosed.

      There are movies out there that have been blockbuster successes and are still officially in the red.

      • Re:Harlen (Score:5, Insightful)

        by tenton (181778) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @08:53PM (#27235689)

        This is why you don't take $$$ from the profits. You take them from gross revenue. Accounting can make all the profits vanish into thin air. Of course, this was done to deprive people with % of profits clauses in their contracts. Every solution that comes up, the studios will always try to find ways to minimize those numbers, to keep all the money to themselves.

  • He's right (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anenome (1250374)
    It's not an attractive way to raise the issue, but it's true: artists should be rewarded for their work. Look at how the studios screwed the Gilligan's Island people, who languished in poverty after the networks ran episodes for decades. The second issue is that is big corporations like those in Hollywood, no one takes you seriously until the lawsuit hits the table. I really don't blame him for being upset, sounds like he tried to go through friendly channels for awhile.
  • He got Judge Snyder, so I can't imagine he'll lose.

    (seriously, the judge's name is Snyder.)
    • by jamesjw (213986)

      Snyder? Like Dee Snyder from Twisted Sister?

      They had a track called "We're not gonna take it" didn't they?

      I sense some lurking irony here!

  • Ellison is one of my favorite sci fi writers but the version of the screenplay he wrote only vagely resembles the one that was used in the film, it was rewritten several times himself and by 4 others including D.C. Fontana and Roddenberry himself before it was finally filmed. As is the original script was unfilmable, it was written from a writers skew not a screenwriters one and also dismissed alot of the established character traits of the crew. He was originally upset enough by the rewrites that he threated to pull his name from the script.

    Fast forward 42 years and a Hugo and now he wants all the credit? I take it his books arent selling like they used to? Seriously Harlan maybe you need the cash or something but get over it.

  • He has a point. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jd (1658) <imipak @ y a h o o .com> on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @08:12PM (#27235225) Homepage Journal

    Regardless of what any contract says, regardless of who actually owes what, screenplay writers are the major breadwinners yet get paid virtually nothing for their efforts. Nobody got rich writing scripts, but many many rich actors and movie moguls got rich from bloody good stories.

    Now, onto the crux of what he says. It is well-known that money brought in through lawsuits, etc, via the MPAA and RIAA have not been forwarded to artists. It is also well-known that artists repeatedly sue managers, producers and studios for payment of royalties. Is it too hard to imagine the studios rip off those who are respected and heard even less?

    The totals are probably exaggerated a little. A Star Trek FAQ from the 1990s suggested the annual turnover of Star Trek merchandise was around 60 million dollars. Recent FAQs don't show any estimate and deny it's possible to calculate one, so this is the only figure I can really go on. It simply isn't possible for a single episode (minus residuals owed to everyone else involved) to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars, even if we assume the FAQ figure to be about right. Tens of millions, divided amongst everyone, for the entire time since original screening - that sounds more likely.

    Given the number of people involved wasn't many, I could see that he should have made somewhere in the low single-digit millions or upper three-digit thousands off a single script at this point. If he has made less than this, he has every right to feel like the studio is ripping him off.

    Of course, legally, all that matters is what the contract says. If the contract says he should be paid X amount and he has been paid less than that (a common enough experience with artists, so why not writers?), then he has not just a moral argument but a legal argument.

    Those who accuse him of kicking up a fuss over nothing should remember that the studios ARE rip-off merchants, and ARE making a great deal of money off Star Trek. There isn't the slightest possibility all of the money Paramount is making is legal. Maybe most of it is, but don't expect me to believe they're being honest for the first time in their lives over one of their biggest money-spinners. Their lawyers are bigger and their accountants are sharper. If there's a way for them to have hidden income, you can be certain they have.

    • screenplay writers are the major breadwinners yet get paid virtually nothing for their efforts . . . the studios ARE rip-off merchants, and ARE making a great deal of money off Star Trek.

      Agreed. I don't understand why Hollywood lets so many movies tank because while they are willing to pay millions for big name actors but can't be bothered to buy a decent script. Obviously cost isn't the issue, as lots of less expensive films and TV shows (the old Doctor Who comes to mind) do get decent scripts.

      Copyrig

  • by pecosdave (536896) * on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @08:14PM (#27235249) Homepage Journal

    Look them up. Though I admit it can be murky at times, inspired by [wikipedia.org] and written by are NOT the same thing.

    Seriously, when you get down to it how many things are inspired by Biblical stories and old fairy tales?

  • by shoor (33382) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @08:38PM (#27235519)

    OK, I think that I think rationally about copyright, though that may not be a completely objective opinion. Here's my way of thinking about it, and ya'll can decide if it's rational or not:

    I'll start with a prosaic non-copyright example to establish my conceptual framework. Suppose you go to a builder to build a house. The builder would be willing to build it for $50000. However, the law requires that he charge you $100000. Would that be rational?

    Now, suppose George Gershwin was willing to write "An American In Paris" as long as he had a copyright for 17 years, but the law required that he have the copyright for the rest of his life plus 100 years. Would that be rational?

    People might say "It's his property!" But if somebody copies it, have they stolen it from him? Doesn't he still 'have' it. What he doesn't have (after the copyright expires) is the right to deny somebody else copying it.

    I thought the original idea of copyright was to give a creator enough incentive to do creative work. Just like $50K might be enough incentive for that builder to build the house.

    Copyrights do inhibit other people's rights. Nobody else was likely to independently compose "An American In Paris", but perhaps George Harrison indepedently composed the melody of "He's So Fine" for his song "My Sweet Lord".

    If George Gershwin thought to himself, "I ain't gonna bother to write no "American In Paris' if all I get is a measly 17 years copyright'. Then maybe 17 years wouldn't be enough. How often do you suppose that comes up in the minds of creators?

    Copyright is now associated with the concept of "intellectual property", and my self-described rational way of thinking of "intellectual property" is that it's a expression coined to trip up people into thinking of copyrights/patents as being the same thing as real property, which is stolen not when somebody copies it, but when somebody actually like, you know, goes out and steals it.

  • by Mishotaki (957104) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @08:46PM (#27235607)
    They should have the rights to "bare-fangs-of-Adamantium"
  • by speedtux (1307149) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @09:38PM (#27236097)

    Greedy, arrogant writer sues greedy, arrogant corporation.

  • by gmhowell (26755) * <gmhowell@gmail.com> on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @09:50PM (#27236221) Homepage Journal

    Seriously, I'm finding it hard to think of a more overrated Star Trek episode than this one. Utterly lame. Definite third season material.

  • by kentrel (526003) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @10:09PM (#27236355) Journal

    If he wants credit for shit, then how about we all give him credit for starting the Trek trend of bullshit time travel plot devices that have been pulled out whenever they need a ratings boost or plot holes need filled.

    He can also take the credit if the new Star Trek movie sucks because of its time travel plot device. Its not about the art with him, its about the credit, so take it Harlan, its all yours! The shitty Voyager two part episode where they went back in time - Its yours!

    The terrible DS9 holodeck episodes set during WW2 - yours too! You were the first to do a WW2 theme in Trek.

    After all, its all about the money, your words. Let that be your epitaph, while after your death we continue to celebrate real sci fi authors like Phillip K. Dick who died penniless, but left amazing art.

  • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @10:29PM (#27236481)
    love him or hate him, he has a record of sticking his neck out on behalf of "the little people", at the same time the studios have a justly-earned reputation for screwing said "little people". Ellison should be given due credit for that.

    Rock on, Harlan.
  • by mark-t (151149) <markt@nOSPam.lynx.bc.ca> on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @11:31PM (#27236857) Journal

    If you contract somebody to build an apartment complex for you, and they do so... let's say they design it, taking it all the way from blueprint to finished building, and you pay them for that job and then proceed to rent out the units in that complex, eventually starting to profit quite heavily, the people you contracted can't exactly come back later and start demanding a percentage from your profits just because it was their work that helped make you rich, can they?

    He wrote something, he was paid, and that was it. Unless his contract specifically says that he was supposed to get royalties all along, he may need reminding that *HE* agreed to those terms. If he didn't like them, he shouldn't have agreed to them in the first place.

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