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Why aren't novels canon?

robjkay

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Report this May. 24 2008, 5:59 pm

Quote (DaveMack @ May 24 2008, 4:40 pm)
Fred2700,

Every word written in a Star Trek novel is work for hire and is owned in its entirety by the licensor. As a member of the WGA, I can tell you that your understanding of the issue is incomplete at best and, in many aspects, wholly incorrect.

As for your description of the development process, I'll say only this: You could not be more wrong. I've been through it, more than once, and you've misunderstood every facet of it.


LoL, boy I'm sure glad that I am not the only one around here who has noticed that Fred2700 says alot of incorrect things. :laugh:

robjkay

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Report this May. 24 2008, 6:11 pm

Quote (Fred2700 @ May 23 2008, 4:02 pm)
[quote=captbates,May 17 2008, 9:15 pm]There would be too
Therefore, the novels can't be considered canon, because of issues of copyright.


Copyrighting has nothing to do with a novel being canon or not! I mean take a look at ST.com and see what they say about what is canon and what is non-canon. I bet you will not see anything on the subject of copyrighting! :logical:

Cptkirkfan18

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Report this May. 24 2008, 9:32 pm

How much would someone like Peter David charge to use a story concept for a series?

DaveMack

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Report this May. 24 2008, 11:35 pm

^ He'd get paid Writers Guild minimum, just like everyone else.

If he'd already sold the story as a Star Trek novel, he wouldn't get paid again for it at all. Once he's sold the story to Star Trek as a novel, Star Trek owns it and can use it any way they like.

If he pitches a story directly to a Star Trek show, and they decide to buy it, they'll pay the Guild minimum rate, just as they do for everyone and everything else. After all, if they don't buy his Star Trek story, what's he going to do? Sell it to a different show? Freelance writers have pretty much zero bargaining power when making sales.

As for the dollar figure of Guild minimum rates, it's currently around $10k for a story outline, $13k for a one-hour teleplay, and about $25k if you sell both at once and get final credit to yourself (i.e., if none of the staff writers, who will inevitably rewrite every word of your script, decline to claim credit and therefore part of the cash).

Real money comes when one is selling the rights to something original that one owns, such as adaptation rights to an original novel, or an original screenplay, etc.  Those are subject to negotiated sale prices.

Fred2700

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Report this May. 25 2008, 5:47 pm

Quote (Robjkay @ May 24 2008, 12:59 am)


Quote (DaveMack @ May 24 2008, 4:40 pm)
¿Fred2700,

Every word written in a Star Trek novel is work for hire and is owned in its entirety by the licensor. As a member of the WGA, I can tell you that your understanding of the issue is incomplete at best and, in many aspects, wholly incorrect.

As for your description of the development process, I'll say only this: You could not be more wrong. I've been through it, more than once, and you've misunderstood every facet of it.


LoL, boy I'm sure glad that I am not the only one around here who has noticed that Fred2700 says alot of incorrect things. :laugh:


@ Robjkay: Wie grausam! Du bist volle Schadenfreude! Haven?t we crossed paths before? I think that you know if I make a mistake that I do and am able to admit it. It just that I don?t condescend to people?s every whim.

@DaveMack: ¿Thanks for taking the time to clear up some of the above issues that I wrote about. I appreciate you giving us clarity. When I lived in Nebraska, I worked on several films and became acquainted with many of the rules. However, I am not an expert, just a person who has worked with SAG and WGA. It was not my intent to misinform, rather take a very difficult issue and simplify it. Therefore, in my haste, I did make several generalizations. ¿If you don?t mind I?d like for you to explain your position more.

I wrote:
Quote (Fred2700 @ May 24 2008, 8:18 pm)

If a writer of a novel is a member of the Writers' Guild and gives his permission for the studio to use his idea for an episode, then the studio can use the idea from the writer's book in a television series. Because of union membership, the writer will be compensated for his idea or work accordingly.

Most writers of Trek do not belong to the Writers' Guild, because they are not writing for television, radio, or film. The mediums are different.

Therefore, if a studio wanted to use a book (let's say Imzadi), they would have to go through a long process. First, they would have to purchase the rights of the book. True, CBS-Paramount own the name Star Trek, but the printed word is credit to Peter David, who would need to be compensated for his work. After purchasing these rights, a script would written. If David is not an experienced script writer, then it is turned over to some who will take the idea and put it into a script format. Once the script is finished, depending on the contract, David will approve it and may make revisions. If there is no revision in the contract, the script goes directly to a producer. The producer reads it and give it her blessing, then ¿sends it to the Department Head for approval by the studio. ¿

With all the steps, it is easy to see why the books are not used in the series or as canon. For every writer accepted, the studio must deal with the unions. There are the exceptions such as Michael Moore, but they are few and far between.

You replied:
Quote (DaveMack @ May 24 2008, 4:40 pm)
¿
Every word written in a Star Trek novel is work for hire and is owned in its entirety by the licensor. As a member of the WGA, I can tell you that your understanding of the issue is incomplete at best and, in many aspects, wholly incorrect.

Example: I developed the Star Trek Vanguard literary series with editor Marco Palmieri. If Paramount decided that they wanted to base a new Star Trek TV series on it, they would not need my permission, and they would not have to pay me a cent. I don't own the copyright to that work --- every last word of it belongs to Star Trek and whomever currently controls its license.

The same rule applies to Peter David, another WGA member. The studio could develop his New Frontier books into a new series, or make a movie of Imzadi, and he would be entitled to nothing except the credit "Based on the novel by" --- and even that might be open to challenge by the copyright holder.

It was my understanding that one of the main issues writers had with studios was that of proper compensation for their work. This is why there was a writers? strike last winter. The studios agreed and will pay the writers a higher percentage i.e. cut of the residuals made on a film, movie, television or radio program. Likewise, when a medium goes to DVD/CD, the writer also gets a residual. ¿Therefore, a writer will get paid for his work not once, but on several occasions.

When a studio credits a work (this is acknowledge in the credits as original story by or based on a novel by), the writer receives compensation from the studio, because the WGA has clear guidelines that say when a work must be cited and how much is to be paid to the writer.

What you are basically saying is that a freelance writer gets no money for a story idea, because she basically signed all her rights away, because she is writing for a franchise.

However, on the other hand, you stated that the writer would get credited for the story or original concept. When this happens, the writer?s name appears on the screen. A union writer would get compensated for this. Does not a freelance writer get compensated for this as well?

I was of the understanding that a studio paid for the rights (brand) of a product, but still had to compensate the writer properly even if the writer had been paid by the publishing company, as the publishing company and studio are two separate entities.

There is a case involving Martin Caidin, the author of Cyborg, and Universal Studios. Supposedly, Universal paid a one-time fee for the rights of Cyborg, which the programs The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman are based. The two shows haven?t been released on DVD, because of the issue of compensation for the writer. Basically, Universals states that they paid once for the rights, meaning a writer cannot be compensated down the line again. There is also the issue of letting the rights slip, which Universal supposedly did, but that is another issue.

I wrote:
Quote (Fred2700 @ May 24 2008, 8:18 pm)

The Writers' Guild basically sets up the rules and regulations regarding the compensation for writers in regards to scripts for television, film and theater. Basically, a person has to be a member of the union to submit a script to a television show or film. This is why breaking into the business is so difficult. However, a person can submit a script as a free agent, then apply for union membership later, once a set amount of experience has been required. CBS/Paramount adheres to union guidelines and hires mostly from established writers. ¿

You replied:
Quote (DaveMack @ May 24 2008, 4:40 pm)
¿As for non-WGA members breaking into the business, the Guild has a clause that lets you make your first-ever sale (of anything -- script, story outline, treatment, etc.) to a Guild-signatory company (such as Paramount) as a non-member, provided that you immediately join the WGA and pay the membership initiation fee as soon as you've been paid. The work-to-acquire-experience method is only for people working in hourly jobs covered by the Guild -- primarily, news writers in radio and sometimes television.

I think we are basically saying the same thing here. Where we differ is that I took the example that one had to gain experience and you cited the rule that allows a writer to join immediately when his work is purchased by studio or producer. This is the basically the same for actors. If a casting director or director finds an actress that is ideal for a role, upon receiving her contract, the actress can also apply for union membership to stay in line with union rules. When this is not the case, an actor must gain experience and then apply to the union.

I wrote:
Quote (Fred2700 @ May 24 2008, 8:18 pm)
Therefore, if a studio wanted to use a book (let's say Imzadi), they would have to go through a long process. First, they would have to purchase the rights of the book. True, CBS-Paramount own the name Star Trek, but the printed word is credit to Peter David, who would need to be compensated for his work. After purchasing these rights, a script would be written.


I am waiting for a clarification on this point and understand that it could be wrong.
Quote (Fred2700 @ May 24 2008, 8:18 pm)
If David is not an experienced scriptwriter, then it is turned over to some one who will take the idea and put it into a script format. Once the script is finished, depending on the contract, David will approve it and may make revisions. If there is no revision in the contract, the script goes directly to a producer. The producer reads it and gives it her blessing, then sends it to the Department Head for approval by the studio. ¿


You replied:
Quote (DaveMack @ May 24 2008, 4:40 pm)
¿As for your description of the development process, I'll say only this: You could not be more wrong. I've been through it, more than once, and you've misunderstood every facet of it.


Let us put aside, the example of writing as a freelancer for a franchise, as this muddles the waters. Let?s say an author wants to sell one of her novels.

Although extremely elementary, what is wrong with this process? A studio or production company purchases the rights to a novel. The novel is turned into a screenplay by a writer. Depending on the contract signed, the author of the product can wave her rights and turn the entire project over to the studio, ask to be involved in the development process (writing the script herself or writing it with another author) or asking for final say over the finished product (very rare, but possible). Which option an author chooses depends on her experience as a writer or whether or not she owns/ waves the copyright to the product.

Therefore, turning a novel into a script can take several months or many years. A director, producer or even an actor (a rare case, but it can be done), may ask a writer to rewrite scenes based on factors such as costs, dialogue or plot cohesion. This whole process adds time to the script getting done. In some cases there is a finished script before production begins and in other cases the script changes come out a day or so before the scene is filmed.

Another twist is that a writer can submit a script through his agent or make a pitch directly to the producer or studio. A studio or production company can also have a vault of scripts in which they can choose from. With finished scripts, they have writers on staff that oversees any changes in the script if needed, as many of the scripts? rights have already been purchased. Likewise, a writer can be contracted to produce a script for a film or television. This is what happened to JJ Abrahms. He was asked by Paramount to write the next script for Star Trek.

Have I missed something? If so, what is it?

From my personal experience:

The finished script or near finished script is what I experienced. When I worked in Nebraska for Educational Television, the scripts were basically complete and sent to our Research Department for the final read. ¿I worked in research and archives and it was our job to insure that a script adhered to historical accuracy. When mistakes in the script were found by the team, the head researcher had to contact the writer and inform that person of the mistakes. The writer corrected the mistakes based on our research. After these corrections were made, both the head researcher and writer reread the script to come to an agreement on how an event was to be historically portrayed.

Once these formalities were over, the script went to producer, who usually gave the green light to start filming the script and director, who had to know of the changes and plan accordingly. Often the scripts we worked on had to be approved by a third party or their representative. Once the third party approved the script, then production could begin. ¿During production, the director often called research instead of the writer when it came to clarify an historic issue, because research which was more knowledgeable made the change and not the writer although the writer got writing credit. Often the third party was called for assurance. Therefore, the rewrite process could take up to a half a year with production lasting 4-12 weeks.

Now, I live in Germany, where things are a little bit different. ¿The problem with selling a story in Germany is that the State owns the two major television channels here. State owned television has had the monopoly, as it receives the lucrative television tax. ¿Because of this, I?ve experienced that the script is completely finished and approved by the producers, directors, studio, investors, and even the actors before filming begins. It is very difficult to pitch a story, because series are produced 1-2 years in advance. Development Department (for lack of a better name) is usually responsible for combing through finished scripts, which have been submitted by a writer?s agent. Therefore, the whole submission process for a writer is curtailed based on these parameters, meaning it may be years before a writer sees his project on the big screen or get compensation for a work i.e. a small fee is paid up front with a larger fee paid once production is finished.

A huge problem for German state television is that almost 75% of all creative ideas come from the US or UK and scripts are purchased from these countries and simply translated into German. This circumnavigates the difficult copyright laws between the two countries, meaning that the writer does not get paid if his US produced product is shown on German television. With the cable stations, most buy programs from the US or UK and pay the distribution companies for the right to show the program. This represent almost 90% of what is seen on Germany cable stations. It also means that the writer does not get paid rather the studio and distribution company.

So I apologize for this being so long. ¿But I become curious as to where I?ve made a mistake. And I always ask why! :)

DaveMack

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POSTS: 526

Report this May. 25 2008, 6:21 pm

Fred,

The part of the equation that you're not understanding is the nature of work for hire writing.

There is a big difference between Star Trek novels (or novels based on any pre-existing film or TV series) and original novels when it comes to film and TV adaptation.

Pay attention, because this is the important part: When a writer agrees to write a Star Trek novel, they must agree that they do not own it, they do not own any rights to it, and they are not entitled to any compensation beyond the initial payment. What this means is that, when I finish writing a Star Trek novel, it is the property of the licensor (currently, CBS Television).

Because it is their property, they can use it any way they want, and they do not need my permission, and they do not need to pay me. They might give me credit to acknowledge the source of the story, but whether I am entitled to be paid is a matter for negotiation.

This is true of every single Star Trek novel ever published.

If a movie studio or TV network wants to acquire the film/TV adaptation rights to my own original novel The Calling (which I'm working on right now), they will have to negotiate with me to obtain such rights, and I can negotiate for as much money as I can get. The reason I can do that is because I own the copyright on my original work.

And I'll just reiterate this, because you didn't seem to understand it the first time:

The Writers Guild handles new membership differently from SAG and DGA. The only people who "earn their way in" to the WGA by work experience are news writers for radio and sometimes television, mostly on the East Coast and in Chicago. People who write story treatments, teleplays, and screenplays get in on their first professional sale --- it's all or nothing for scriptwriters in film and TV. You make a sale, you get in, period.

Fred2700

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Report this May. 25 2008, 6:51 pm

@DaveMack:

Thank you for making these points clear.

Quote (DaveMack @ May 26 2008, 1:21 am)
They might give me credit to acknowledge the source of the story, but whether I am entitled to be paid is a matter for negotiation.


The point above which you just made was why I said that David might get compensation. Here you've made it clear that this possibility is very slim.

BTW, what do the new WGA rules say about this or did they leave this issue out all together?

Quote (DaveMack @ May 26 2008, 1:21 am)

If a movie studio or TV network wants to acquire the film/TV adaptation rights to my own original novel The Calling (which I'm working on right now), they will have to negotiate with me to obtain such rights, and I can negotiate for as much money as I can get. The reason I can do that is because [b]I own the copyright on my original work
.


This I believe I stated in my last post, but thank you for clarifying it again.


Quote (DaveMack @ May 26 2008, 1:21 am)
The Writers Guild handles new membership differently from SAG and DGA. The only people who "earn their way in" to the WGA by work experience are news writers for radio and sometimes television, mostly on the East Coast and in Chicago. People who write story treatments, teleplays, and screenplays get in on their first professional sale --- it's all or nothing for scriptwriters in film and TV. You make a sale, you get in, period.

You've pegged my geographical location exactly. Before I moved to Germany, I did call Chicago my home and worked there in news and print after I moved from Nebraska.

Believe it or not I do know the difference between SAG and WGA! :) And it is clear to me now that a portfolia is not needed to get into WGA.

Thank you for your understanding in this matter.

PS Next time you don't have to shout or use bold, I'm perfectly capable of understanding what you write by reading the written word.

EnterprisetheBest

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Report this Jun. 17 2008, 12:33 am

I don't really care whether the novels are canon or not. A lot of the ones I have read or listened on audio cassette are very good. After Enterprise went off the air, non-canon sources are now all that's left. And at least there is a consistent continuity and almost no blatant contradictions of Trek canon. One exception I noticed is one of the SCE e-books is about the DaVinci crew finding the Defiant orginally featured in "The Tholian Web."

DaveMack

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Report this Jun. 17 2008, 6:43 am

^ Given time and an opportunity, even those two seemingly contradictory stories can be reconciled. Never underestimate the power of technobabble.  :-)

TrekWriterKC

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Report this Jun. 17 2008, 10:56 am

Quote (EnterprisetheBest @ June 17 2008, 2:33 am)
I don't really care whether the novels are canon or not. A lot of the ones I have read or listened on audio cassette are very good. After Enterprise went off the air, non-canon sources are now all that's left. And at least there is a consistent continuity and almost no blatant contradictions of Trek canon. One exception I noticed is one of the SCE e-books is about the DaVinci crew finding the Defiant orginally featured in "The Tholian Web."

It's worth noting that the story you cite was published five years before the Defiant appeared on Enterprise. At the time it was written, it *was* consistent with the Trek canon.

And, as Dave said, given time and effort, it can be reconciled with what was later seen in "In A Mirror, Darkly." :)

_Roadhog_

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Report this Jun. 17 2008, 11:04 am

Quote (TrekWriterKC @ June 17 2008, 2:56 pm)
Quote (EnterprisetheBest @ June 17 2008, 2:33 am)
I don't really care whether the novels are canon or not. A lot of the ones I have read or listened on audio cassette are very good. After Enterprise went off the air, non-canon sources are now all that's left. And at least there is a consistent continuity and almost no blatant contradictions of Trek canon. One exception I noticed is one of the SCE e-books is about the DaVinci crew finding the Defiant orginally featured in "The Tholian Web."

It's worth noting that the story you cite was published five years before the Defiant appeared on Enterprise. At the time it was written, it *was* consistent with the Trek canon.

And, as Dave said, given time and effort, it can be reconciled with what was later seen in "In A Mirror, Darkly." :)

Sounds like a good plot for the SCE's 100th eBook!

Ben_Sisko

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Report this Jun. 22 2008, 4:18 am

Quote (TrekWriterKC @ June 17 2008, 7:56 am)
Quote (EnterprisetheBest @ June 17 2008, 2:33 am)
I don't really care whether the novels are canon or not. A lot of the ones I have read or listened on audio cassette are very good. After Enterprise went off the air, non-canon sources are now all that's left. And at least there is a consistent continuity and almost no blatant contradictions of Trek canon. One exception I noticed is one of the SCE e-books is about the DaVinci crew finding the Defiant orginally featured in "The Tholian Web."

It's worth noting that the story you cite was published five years before the Defiant appeared on Enterprise. At the time it was written, it *was* consistent with the Trek canon.

And, as Dave said, given time and effort, it can be reconciled with what was later seen in "In A Mirror, Darkly." :)

Are we thinking of a possible quantum mirroring effect that could create 2 versions of the Defiant, one that stayed put in our universe, and one that managed to travel through the looking glass? ;)


You know something.

I have to honestly say that chatting with you Dayton and with Dave and Keith it makes me want to take up writing again.

It always seems that when I'm in the company of authors that I always feel like I'm with my peers.

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