Writer’s guild strike; Should engineers do the same?

The Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) is on strike. According to the AP snippet I heard this morning on the radio, this is largely about residual payments on television shows, especially shows that are being broadcast on the web. This got me to thinking.

What if engineers were paid the same way that television show writers are? Everytime you drive on a road or take advantage of some other piece of public construction, some residual amount goes to the Civil Engineer who designed it. Everytime you ride in your car, each of the people who designed that car get a little bit. Sort of a “job well done” reward. Everytime someone uses a device that I wrote the software for, a few pennies show up in my bank account. Sounds grand, no?

No. My gut feeling is that it’s silly to expect to be paid over and over and over again for the same work. The WGA feels differently though. What do you all think? Are engineers selling themselves short? Or is it just that the WGA, being attached to the entertainment hegomy, just feels more entitled than we do? Why is entertainment viewed like this: so different from everything else?

  1. I think it all depends on who owns the work. In the case of the writer’s guild, the company they work for owns the work. The company pays them to write. They don’t own the work, same as engineers. If a writer writes something on his own, he can then sell usage to it as many times as he wants and therefore gets residual payments, same as an engineer who designs something in his garage and patents it. Basically, the Writers Guild is a bunch of pansies. If they don’t like their contract, they can go write somewhere else.

  2. trav, you took the words out of my mouth. You’re right, it’s all about ownership. The engineers who design and own good ideas have very similar financial arrangements were they do get a licensing fee every time someone sells there product. The writers aren’t good enough or ambitious enough to own there work. Also, companies hire both engineers and writers on staff specifically so that they don’t have to pay royalties.

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