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In which John talks about the strike of the Writers' Guild of America. And then there is an obscure scavenger hunt clue.

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A Bunny
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((') (')
Good Morning, Hank, it’s a Tuesday in November.

Hank, I still have a bit of an ear infection, but as several helpful viewers pointed out to me last week: I never really had any facial symmetry. So that’s good. Hank, I want to talk to you a little bit today about the writer’s strike that’s going on, partly because it’s affecting my television habits and partly because I’m worried about its larger implications for creative work in the United States.

So Hank, when you write books for a living, it’s a pretty simple economic model: This is my book. Every time I sell one of these, they pay me for it. I have a publisher.

The publisher sells and distributes copies of my book. And for each book that is sold, the publisher makes a certain amount of money and I make a certain amount of money. The amount of money I make is smaller.

And it doesn’t matter the format the book is in, it doesn’t matter if it’s a paperback, it doesn’t matter if it’s on CD, it doesn’t matter if it’s on tape or if it’s on MP3 or if it only exists on the internet. But anyway, the percentage of the sale I get on various forms of my book might change, but I always get some kind of percentage. So that percentage is called a royalty.

In screenwriting and writing for television, there’s an analogous percentage, which is called a residual. It’s called different things because the studio actually technically owns the copyright on screenwriting, but it’s very complicated copyright law crap. Now, Hank, I have to say to be fair there is one version of my book for which I am not paid a penny.

It’s called an advanced reader’s copy and they give this out to librarians and independent booksellers, and also to reviewers in order to get people excited about the book in the months before it comes out. See it says right there: “Advanced reader’s copy. Not for sale.” Hank, there is a reason I don’t get paid anything for this book: It’s because they’re given away.

And things that are given away are basically promotional tools, right? But here’s the crazy thing, Hank: When people write for television shows, and then those television shows are put on the internet and then people watch those television shows on the internet, while also looking and clicking on ads that are on the same internet page, the producers say that the writers shouldn’t get paid for that content, because it’s promotional content. So let me give you an example, Hank.

Say you think Family Guy is funny. I happen not to, but say you do. You can go onto MySpace and you can watch an episode of Family Guy, an entire episode, with commercials, and Fox will make money of that content, because they own MySpace which is showing ads and they also own Family Guy, which is also showing ads.

And yet Fox says that they shouldn’t have to pay the writers to show the stuff on MySpace, because it’s promotional content. But Hank, you can’t make money on promotional content. And if you do make money on it, it’s not promotional anymore, it’s just content.

Hank, just as I’m paid for MP3s and for audio books and for paperbacks and for hardcovers, writers want to be paid for their work on television and in movies, regardless of the format. Whether it’s shown on television or on a movie screen or on MySpace or on YouTube. That’s all they want, Hank, is to be treated like authors, who, for the record, are treated all right, but, you know, not that well.

But Hank, the other argument of the producers is that they can’t set a residual rate because they don’t know how much money they’re going to make off internet content. Do you think Brilliance Audio knows how many copies of the MP3 they’re going to sell of my book An abundance of Katherines? Of course they don’t.

Hank, they could sell four copies, in fact I think they have. The point is, whether you sell four or four million, you pay a percentage of the revenue to the creator of the content. That way we all have a shared responsibility in both the failure and the success of whatever we create.

So seriously guys, I would appreciate it if you would go back to the negotiating table and make a deal, so I can announce some very exciting news to the nerdfighters. Hank, I’ll see you tomorrow. Hank, two quick P.

S.’s: First, the nerdfighters in nerdfighterlike have outed themselves in an adorable video that you can see here or possibly here and there’s always the chance that it’s over here. Also, Hank, thanks for your great video yesterday about the scavenger hunt. It was extremely funny and a lot of nerdfighters were also extremely confused.

Hank, I will say this: The scavenger hunt as a whole is very complex. But each day’s clue can be solved with almost no knowledge of anything having to do with the scavenger hunt before today. By the way, Hank, today’s clue is going to be a doozy.

Nerdfighters, your clue is: Winner, South Dakota.