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The New Stars of the Writers Guild Strike: Lawyers

Some new stars are emerging as a result of the continuing 2007 Writers Guild Strike: the lawyers.  According to this story from the Hollywood Reporter (11/16/07), lawyers representing film and television writers are advising clients on some of the legal issues at the heart of the strike, specifically, whether the writers are entitled to a percentage of revenues that the studios derive from making content available on the Internet. 

As it persists, the strike continues to generate new legal questions, including (from the article):

Is writing for the Internet permissible during a strike? What are showrunners' rights and obligations to struck companies? Is there a "correct" choice when a writer receives two letters, one from the WGA demanding that he turn over all unproduced material that has been shopped or purchased by a studio, and another from the studio saying that to do so would put the writer in breach of contract and subject him to a lawsuit?

With few clear-cut guidelines, some lawyers have suggested a compromise, advising their clients to e-mail their scripts to their attorneys.  Lawyers would then hold the unproduced material in escrow pending resolution of the strike -- which, hopefully, would serve as an acceptable alternative to requiring writers to turn over their unproduced work to the studios and enable them to avoid the threatened lawsuits.

Meanwhile, Christine Corcos of Media Law Professor Blog reports here that one potential suit has been averted.  Corcos explains that the Writers Guild backed down from its original position that would have prevented writers from working on animated films.  The Guild's position would have created a conflict with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), which did not want to see its members out of work.

The strike has also made a star of at least one lawyer-blogger, Jonathan Handel, former associate counsel for the Writers' Guild who runs the Digital Media Blog.  Handel's work rocketed his Google search rankings, which in turn lead to exposure in national media, according to the Legal Pad

Handel has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal and in Associated Press stories that got picked up worldwide. It has done wonders for his Google positioning, [Handel] said. "€œIf you googled my name 10 days ago, you'€™d find about 300 hits,"€ he said. "€œNow, if you google my name, there'€™s 18,000 hits from China to Prague."€ And all that name recognition is good for him and the firm when it comes to attracting potential clients. Already, he'€™s gotten a handful of calls from prospects who have seen his opinions about the strike in the media.

Some lawyers aren't just advising writers on the strike; they're participating in it as well.  Remember, Jeremy Blachman, the Harvard law student (he's since passed the bar) of Anonymous Lawyer fame?  Now, Blachman's a writer, out on the picket line with his colleagues, as Blachman writes here and here.

Finally, if you're interested in learning more about the legal issues related to the strike, but you don't want to read a complicated analysis, take a look at this highly entertaining video posted most recently at Concurring Opinions

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on November 16, 2007 at 04:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)


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