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Harlan Ellison Sues For "Star Trek" Episode

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the dangerous-visions dept.

The Courts 483

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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wow (5, Funny)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#27234727)

Tell us what you really think dude ;)

Re:wow (4, Funny)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 4 years ago | (#27234887)

"REPENT Harlanquin!" Said the FatCat man.

Re:wow (0, Redundant)

ConceptJunkie (24823) | more than 5 years ago | (#27235399)

What is it with these illiterate moderators? Doesn't anyone _read_ any more? Oh, wait. Of course not.

Re:wow (3, Funny)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 5 years ago | (#27235507)

What is it with these illiterate moderators? Doesn't anyone _read_ any more? Oh, wait. Of course not.

I'd personally give them shit but "I have no mouth and I must scream!"

Re:wow (3, Insightful)

Golddess (1361003) | more than 5 years ago | (#27235677)

Y'know, instead of saying how dumb the mods are for not understanding Jeremiah's post, why not instead tell people why such a post isn't a troll? I know I for one would be grateful to anyone who could clue me in.

Re:wow (5, Interesting)

fm6 (162816) | more than 4 years ago | (#27234969)

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 (4, Funny)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#27235081)

Yeah, Hollywood has always ripped off its writers

Fixed that for you.

I take it he dont like Pirate Bay much either (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27235381)

Arrrr, matie. City on the Edge of Tomorrow, ay? Copyright long ago exipred fer ya, matie! Go suck a squid befores I make you walks the plank, ya scurrvy pox ridden land lubber.

Re:wow (4, Funny)

plover (150551) | more than 5 years ago | (#27235461)

That's right. We should support those Hollywood writers by buying their stories, not just watching re-runs that make money only for the studios.

Here's one way to support Harlan: buy the book. [ebay.com] Make sure he gets paid for his fabulous story.

Oh, wait. It's out of print, and that's a site that sells used copies. Sorry, Harlan!

Re:wow (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 5 years ago | (#27235509)

Yeah, Hollywood has a bad record for ripping off the creative people. But the Star Trek franchise was worse than that even.

Re:wow (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#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 (5, Informative)

psiphiorg (566033) | more than 5 years ago | (#27235309)

"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:wow (2, Insightful)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 5 years ago | (#27235433)

See, if Ellison had simply said that, we'd all nod our heads in agreement. Instead, he went off into an incomprehensible rant about fighting 'the man'. (At least, I think that's what it was about. Hard to tell through the foggy and indignant prose.)

Re:wow (2, Informative)

StarkRG (888216) | more than 5 years ago | (#27235589)

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:wow (1)

StarkRG (888216) | more than 5 years ago | (#27235595)

s/midsummer's/midsummer

Re:wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27235097)

Tell us what you really think dude ;)

What is Star-Trek?

Re:wow (4, Funny)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 5 years ago | (#27235259)

Tell us what you really think dude ;)

What is Star-Trek?

It's an old TV show where men in tight-fitting outfits and women in mini-skirts and tight-fitting nylons flew a primitive warp-drive spaceship around, interfering in the development of numerous civilizations around our part of the galaxy on a weekly basis. That fine tradition was continued in the various Star Trek spinoff franchises that popped up (rather like weeds) in the decades since the original series was aired. Note to first-time viewers: the various characters in TOS (i.e., The Original Series) were conveniently color-coded for longevity: those wearing tight-fitting red outfits generally didn't make it out of any given episode alive.

Re:wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27235335)

"What is Star-Trek"

You are on the wrong web site. Move along, try the (nothing like) reality TV show web sites. The ones filled with misguided fools who think insecure attention seeking Histrionic Personality Disorders are something to admire. ... oh you were "joking" ... yeah right, just another joke about scifi being some how sad to watch. The exact same kind of humour as the fools watching the insecure HPDs.

Re:wow (1, Interesting)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 5 years ago | (#27235379)

> What is Star-Trek? ...an old TV show that should be in the public domain by now.

Royalties Schmoyalties.

If not for the law being bent out of shape in order to benefit
the fat cats and moguls that he's complaining about right now,
he wouldn't have any standing to sue those same fat cats and
moguls.

Harlan is once again showing himself to be the posterboy for copyright reform.

Oh Slashdot (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#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 (4, Informative)

Dewin (989206) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Hmm... (5, Funny)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#27234743)

He has a mouth and he must sue...

Re:Hmm... (0, Redundant)

fm6 (162816) | more than 4 years ago | (#27235063)

Whoever flagged this one "Troll" not only has no sense of humor, he doesn't know Ellison's work!

Re:Hmm... (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#27235383)

Did he ever get paid for The Terminator, or did he just get the acknowledgment in the credits?

Personally I think it is good that fragments of great old stories see the light of day in franchise movies but it is a shame the original writers don't get paid. The Matix is a good example, I think.

Re:Hmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27235659)

The woman who the Wachowski brothers stole their script from did get paid, after she sued them.

That's life in corporate America. There's always someone stealing everything they can.

Re:Hmm... (4, Interesting)

fm6 (162816) | more than 5 years ago | (#27235679)

Wikipedia says he got a "cash settlement". More than he deserved, since his only contribution to that movie was to write some stories that James Cameron says "inspired him".

Didn't know about that incident before you brought it to my attention. Another reason to dislike a man I already despise. Compare with this incident over another Star Trek ep, "The Trouble With Tribbles": when Paramount asked Robert Heinlein to waive any claim over creatures that strongly resembled flatcats, Heinlein responded, "I have no patent on small furry aliens!"

It was over 40 years ago (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27234763)

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

Re:It was over 40 years ago (0, Flamebait)

surmak (1238244) | more than 4 years ago | (#27234813)

Your copyright should have expired anyway...

Yes, but if the money has go somewhere, I would far rather see it go to the actual writers and actors, and the studios and suits.

Re:It was over 40 years ago (3, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#27234981)

I would rather it go out in the manner the contract said.

Re:It was over 40 years ago (1)

MrHanky (141717) | more than 5 years ago | (#27235071)

The copyright is owned by the studio anyway, with Ellison being paid royalties as specified by contract. The contract probably didn't specify DVD sales and such, so he might have a case. Or not. We'll see.

Re:It was over 40 years ago (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 5 years ago | (#27235263)

Just because technology changes, doesn't mean he gets a piece of that too.

Re:It was over 40 years ago (1)

amiga3D (567632) | more than 4 years ago | (#27234823)

Mmmmm....hasn't copyright been expanded?

Re:It was over 40 years ago (1)

xxthepatientxx (1319475) | more than 4 years ago | (#27234977)

Copyright is good for the life of the author plus...I forget, like 100 years, thanks to Disney.

Re:It was over 40 years ago (1)

illegalcortex (1007791) | more than 5 years ago | (#27235217)

*whoosh*

Re:It was over 40 years ago (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27234997)

But there's money being made out there and so it should go to the original creators, not the papershuffling gladhanders.

It's so sad how the so-called copyfighters are now reflexively anti-artist. They seem to want every artist to get nothing just to prove some weird point.

Said? I'll give you sad. (0, Troll)

aussersterne (212916) | more than 5 years ago | (#27235105)

Sad is that if you enforce/support copyright it doesn't go to the artists, but rather to major corporations and PHB's.

And sadder is that if don't enforce/support copyright, then the major corporations and PHB's simply rob artists blind, corporations being "more powerful than you can possibly imagine."

Copyright basically does jack shit, like everything in our society. Heads the corporations win, tails you lose to the corporations.

Re:It was over 40 years ago (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27235037)

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

While I agree that copyright terms are currently unacceptable long ... nowhere and never were terms so short as to have expired in a mere 4 decades. The traditional terms were either 70 years post creation, or 20 after the death of the author.

Re:It was over 40 years ago (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27235141)

You fail it. [earlyamerica.com]

Re:It was over 40 years ago (1)

baxissimo (135512) | more than 5 years ago | (#27235485)

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

Copyright doesn't cover story or character ideas anyway. It only protects the actual text of a story, or drawings of a character, etc. If you happen to hear that some studio is working on a story about, say, the life of some bugs, and another studio catches wind of the idea, there is really nothing you can legally do to stop the other studio from releasing their own movie about the troubles faced by a bunch of cute 6-legged insects. At least that's my understanding of it.

Re:It was over 40 years ago (1)

glittalogik (837604) | more than 5 years ago | (#27235669)

Antz/A Bug's Life is far from the only example, there's also Armageddon/Deep Impact, Romeo and Juliet/Tromeo and Juliet, Dante's Peak/Volcano... I'd say your understanding is spot on.

Re:It was over 40 years ago (1)

glittalogik (837604) | more than 5 years ago | (#27235703)

Forgot to add: each of those pairs came out in the same year, there wasn't even a pretense of them being anything other than multiple studios cashing in on the new hot idea.

Re:It was over 40 years ago (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 5 years ago | (#27235621)

Thanks, you saved me from having to say it :)

Anti-DRM (-1, Troll)

Bordgious (1378477) | more than 4 years ago | (#27234801)

And this is why so many of us don't like DRM. The money doesn't end up going to those who need/deserve it anyway...

Re:Anti-DRM (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27234853)

Off topic much?

Re:Anti-DRM (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27235043)

Watch that cunt get modded 'insightful'!

I really... (5, Funny)

AresTheImpaler (570208) | more than 4 years ago | (#27234807)

I really enjoyed the Star Wars [penny-arcade.com] stuff he wrote...

Re:I really... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27235213)

Q: What would you say to a little fuck?
A: Hello little fuck!

Re:I really... (1)

gknoy (899301) | more than 5 years ago | (#27235311)

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:I really... (2, Funny)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 5 years ago | (#27235563)

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

hmm (2, Funny)

Tumbleweed (3706) | more than 4 years ago | (#27234825)

A writer and his dog-and-pony show.

Sounds like someone is jealous (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27234833)

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.

correction (was:Sounds like someone is jealous) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27234921)

he is on the short end of the Hollywood stick

Actually, he's on the long end of the stick, just that the stick is ramped up the part of his anatomy where sun don't shine...

Re:Sounds like someone is jealous (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#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 (2, Insightful)

WiiVault (1039946) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:Yup (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#27234957)

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.

Re:Yup (1)

WiiVault (1039946) | more than 5 years ago | (#27235125)

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 circumventing contracts using things like my above example, than I would say it is you who off.

Re:Yup (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 5 years ago | (#27235391)

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, spend 30 minutes with the man then you will realize everyone is forcing him to do something, and everyone who doesn't give him his way is a useless in their job.
Based on that, I wonder how much of a case he really has.
I would love to read the contract he signed.

Actually, I would rather the copyright was expired after 14 years.
If HE painted your house, he would think he was getting ripped off because he didn't get a penny every time someone looked at it.

Re:Yup (1)

ConceptJunkie (24823) | more than 5 years ago | (#27235531)

I wonder how rich Mr. Ellison would be if he invested all his energy bitching about the world keeping him down into more writing.

Re:Yup (1)

john83 (923470) | more than 5 years ago | (#27235159)

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 unreasonable for any of the creative people involved in it to look for profit-sharing as part or all of their pay. A fee for each showing of a movie or tv show made from your script is no different from how patents work.

Now, this is slashdot, so I haven't read TFA, so I don't know the specifics here: maybe there's no legal basis for this claim. I don't really care: I'm just annoyed at the parent's attitude.

Re:Yup (1)

john83 (923470) | more than 5 years ago | (#27235251)

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:Yup (2, Insightful)

MikeBabcock (65886) | more than 5 years ago | (#27235165)

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 on the former -- so I'm of two minds I suppose.

That said, what you need is a better collective bargaining agreement as part of the "guild of software whozits" that gets you paid residuals from redistribution of your work. You don't have such a contract, and writers often do.

Re:Yup (1)

ConceptJunkie (24823) | more than 5 years ago | (#27235445)

so I'm of two minds I suppose.

Not really. Do you think much code written today will have any value in 20 years, or 40 years, leave alone 75 or 95 years after the author dies?

Copyright as originally envisioned is what's needed for OSS, and would serve society in general much better than the essentially perpetual copyright that now exists.

Re:Yup (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#27235545)

Free software kind of works because if I write (say) apache and (say) IBM wants to turn it into their own web server the easiest thing for them to do is to hire me to do it.

OTH if you are making The Matrix then hiring William Gibson to write your screenplay is actually not the best thing to do so he doesn't get paid for ideas of his which wind up being used in the screenplay.

Re:Yup (1)

MrHanky (141717) | more than 5 years ago | (#27235255)

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 (3, Insightful)

RobotRunAmok (595286) | more than 5 years ago | (#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...

On one hand... (5, Funny)

Chyeld (713439) | more than 4 years ago | (#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... (4, Insightful)

roc97007 (608802) | more than 4 years ago | (#27234953)

> 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:On one hand... (1, Funny)

stiggle (649614) | more than 5 years ago | (#27235085)

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's.

Re:On one hand... (4, Insightful)

Chyeld (713439) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:On one hand... (5, Funny)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 5 years ago | (#27235623)

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:On one hand... (5, Informative)

TrekkieGod (627867) | more than 5 years ago | (#27235167)

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.

Re:On one hand... (4, Funny)

Chyeld (713439) | more than 5 years ago | (#27235267)

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

Re:On one hand... (2, Informative)

TrekkieGod (627867) | more than 5 years ago | (#27235343)

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... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27235397)

I read the original script once. It was horrible.

Yeah, it was so horrible that "Harlan Ellison's original version won a Writers Guild of America Award for best dramatic hour-long script."

Cite: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_City_on_the_Edge_of_Forever [wikipedia.org] - under "Reception".

I don't understand why such misinformed crap gets modded up.

Re:On one hand... (4, Insightful)

TrekkieGod (627867) | more than 5 years ago | (#27235471)

Yeah, it was so horrible that "Harlan Ellison's original version won a Writers Guild of America Award for best dramatic hour-long script."

I don't know about you, but I don't let the WGA or anyone else decide for me which scripts I like or dislike. Did you read it, or are just look it up to see if it had won any awards?

I don't understand why such misinformed crap gets modded up.

Other than our disagreement about the quality of the original script, which is purely a matter of opinion, was anything factually incorrect my post? He's trying to get residuals for a script that has little resemblance to what he actually wrote, and for which he actually considered disowning because he disliked it so much. He does that, I assume, because the TV show which he dislikes, earned a lot more money than the book he published with the version he did like.

Re:On one hand... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27235171)

On the other hand, said creative is possibly the most obnoxious asshole still living that I've known of.

Where were you the last eight years?

Re:On one hand... (1)

jd (1658) | more than 5 years ago | (#27235243)

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 (3, Funny)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#27234923)

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:Harlen (1, Interesting)

fm6 (162816) | more than 5 years ago | (#27235123)

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 (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 5 years ago | (#27235469)

It's the contract witht he writers ghuild I am tlaking about.
When you sign that contract, you are stating that you are NOT an artist.

Yes, I am familiar with the books in hollywood. "No movie ever makes a profit."

Different issue. He decided to write it as an employee.

Plus what aired is not what he wrote. What he wrote was crap. See if the original script is available. Just to twist HE's nipple, bittorrent it.
Then you will see it's not even his work. Sure, a couple of characters are similar, but the story is different, and the writing is pretty bad.

So, If I write something under a fixed rate contract. Then the people who paid me to do it drastically changed it, should I still get credit? Should I be able to retroactively sue for royalties?
Let me know if I can, there is some large software companies that sell code I have written. I'd love to get a couple of sense for every disk.
Then I could pay someone to read /. for me~

Movie studio accounting is pure fiction (1)

crovira (10242) | more than 5 years ago | (#27235647)

I don't consider Ellison as creative a writer as the accountants/troglodytes who toil in the stinking darkened pits of Hollywood.

Re:Harlen (4, Insightful)

tenton (181778) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:Harlen (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27235183)

Ya know I really hope you read every single line of every thing you sign from now on cause I'm gonna be looking and if you so much as break one codicil I'm gonna slam you the fuck into a wall so hard your shorts are gonna achieve orbit.
 

Re:Harlen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27235361)

TFA isn't the best source for info here, but as it turns out, it was on his contract, only Paramount keeps procrastinating rather than paying him. For more info check this out [themovieblog.com] .

Re:Harlen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27235561)

Here's the problem with your premise: it is in his contract that he gets a share of the profit. The problem is that "profit" is a special thing in Hollywood. You've seen Trek on TV in the past 20 years? Well, that was sold to a subsidiary network for a token amount. Why would the studio practically give away the syndication rights?! Well, you see, Paramount's shell-company parent owns that network, so the network can make the profit, and writers and actors need not get a paycheck.

Isn't that clever? Ellison is an ascerbic, loudmouthed bastard who enjoys poking at people to see how they'll twitch, but this lawsuit is both fully justified and ultimately as doomed as any other attempt to right this model in the past 20 years.

He's right (2, Interesting)

Anenome (1250374) | more than 4 years ago | (#27235031)

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.

Re:He's right (0, Redundant)

equex (747231) | more than 5 years ago | (#27235187)

I am a programmer, i think i should get royalties, lets say 10% of all the money that go trough the systems i wrote. Ive written hundreds of thousands of lines of production code. doesnt that make me a writer ? its doesnt say so in the contract, but fuck, i am a writer and my code is art.

Re:He's right (1)

equex (747231) | more than 5 years ago | (#27235299)

uhm i wasnt trying to reply to this post, but the sibling above. must have pressed the wrong button.

Re:He's right (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 5 years ago | (#27235487)

How did they screw those people? Is there some contract the studio violated? or did they just not get a good contract?

This is a little like selling dinosaur embryos because you became unhappy that your contract didn't include a piece of dinosaur island.

He'll win (1)

coppro (1143801) | more than 5 years ago | (#27235065)

He got Judge Snyder, so I can't imagine he'll lose.

(seriously, the judge's name is Snyder.)

Re:He'll win (1)

jamesjw (213986) | more than 5 years ago | (#27235147)

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!

First he bitches about it then wants more credit? (4, Insightful)

grapeape (137008) | more than 5 years ago | (#27235129)

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.

Re:First he bitches about it then wants more credi (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27235189)

Stop regurgitating Roddenberry lies.

http://www.amazon.com/City-Edge-Forever-Original-Teleplay/dp/1565049640

The original screenplay did need some revisions to fit in with the startrek story line, but only fairly minor ones.

Re:First he bitches about it then wants more credi (1)

Chyeld (713439) | more than 5 years ago | (#27235323)

Nice try Harlan, we aren't going to buy your books just to refute your point.

Re:First he bitches about it then wants more credi (1)

hondo77 (324058) | more than 5 years ago | (#27235495)

Interesting that Ellison waited until Roddenberry died to publish his side of the story. Presumably so people like you could brand Roddenberry, unable to defend himself, a liar.

He has a point. (4, Interesting)

jd (1658) | more than 5 years ago | (#27235225)

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.

Terminator and this guy. (3, Insightful)

pecosdave (536896) | more than 5 years ago | (#27235249)

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?

Who thinks rationally about copyright? (3, Interesting)

shoor (33382) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Will Marvel sue him? (2, Funny)

Mishotaki (957104) | more than 5 years ago | (#27235607)

They should have the rights to "bare-fangs-of-Adamantium"

Statute of Limitations? (1)

orkybash (1013349) | more than 5 years ago | (#27235747)

IANAL but isn't there a statute of limitations here? Isn't an issue dating back to the original Trek a little beyond it? In all likelihood this is a publicity stunt that he knows full well will be laughed out of court... that's beside the point.
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