Harlan Ellison Sues Paramount – Alleges Unpaid Merchandising Royalties | TrekMovie.com
jump to navigation

Harlan Ellison Sues Paramount – Alleges Unpaid Merchandising Royalties March 15, 2009

by Robert Lyons , Filed under: Merchandise,TOS , trackback

Harlan Ellison has filed a lawsuit over what he claims are unpaid residuals stemming from his classic Star Trek episode “City on the Edge of Forever”. The episode is often ranked among the top episodes in Star Trek history, and Ellison, according to a press release, “wants every penny of his long ago agreed-upon share of the revenue from Paramount’s relentless Trek exploitations.”

Ellison wants in on the merchandising
Ellison has, for years, been vocal about what he believes to be the uncompensated use of elements of the “City” teleplay including the Guardian of Forever, Edith Keeler, and the setting of the episode. While his claims are not new, they took on a decidedly sharper tone in 2006 when Pocket Books released the "Crucible" trilogy. Written by David R. George III, the trilogy was, in many respects, worked around the premise of “City on the Edge of Forever”, though it told an ever-expanding storyline that surrounded McCoy, Spock, and Kirk. When that particular watershed broke, Ellison wrote on his website, “If they play nice and tug their forelock and acknowledge where the material came from and pay me a trailer-truck full of cash, I will not sue them in Federal District Court…”


Crucible Trilogy part of Ellison’s suit against Paramount and CBS/Simon & Schuster

The increasing array of marketing that accompanies Star Trek including Christmas ornaments and DVD sets are also now now drawing the writer’s ire. Ellison claims that CBS and Paramount have gone silent, refusing to disclose sales figures on items derived from his work. According to his representative, John H. Carmichael, “Mr. Ellison wants every penny of his long ago agreed-upon share of the revenue from Paramount’s relentless Trek exploitations…” Earlier in the year after preliminary hearings were held regarding Ellison’s complaint TrekMovie contacted CBS and Simon & Schuster – both had no comment.


2004 Hallmark Guardian ornament noted in Ellison Lawsuit

Ellison: Pay Me!
The outspoken Ellison makes it clear in the release that he has one agenda with this suit, to get paid. The release quotes Ellison in part:

And please make sure to remember, at the moment some Studio mouthpiece calls me a mooch, and says I’m only pursuing this legal retribution to get into their ‘deep pockets,’ tell’m Ellison snarled back, ‘F- – – -in’-A damn skippy!’ I’m no hypocrite. It ain’t about the ‘principle,’ friend, its about the MONEY! Pay Me! Am I doing this for other writers, for Mom (still dead), and apple pie? Hell no! I’m doing it for the 35-year-long disrespect and the money!

Ellison’s release also points to “Pay the Writer” video clip on YouTube, from the documentary “Dreams With Sharp Teeth”, which exemplifies Ellison’s feelings towards getting properly compensated.

Also named as a defendant in the March 13th filing is the Writers Guild of America, who, Ellison’s representatives claim, have failed to act on Ellison’s behalf after numerous requests. The case has been filed in the Central District of California, and is awaiting a hearing date.

More on Harlan Ellison and his suit at HarlanEllison.com
 

Comments

1. Steven - March 15, 2009

He created the character, he should get royalties. Period.

Dare I say it, first?

2. rm10019 - March 15, 2009

The really need to pay him what is due, by law.

3. Hat Rick - March 15, 2009

Good article!

I’m not all that delighted to see litigation connected with Trek. I hope that the parties reach an amicable resolution.

4. darrksan - March 15, 2009

Good for Harlan!

5. Gravitic Yours - March 15, 2009

Writers get no respect. At least pay them what they are due, particularly when they are — dare I say — great ones like Mr. Ellison.

6. TonyD - March 15, 2009

Sure took him long enough to actually file this lawsuit. He’s been bitter about Paramount in general and Trek in particular for decades and I’m curious why he has now decided to move forward with this. I’d love to see a copy of the contract Ellison signed when he wrote City. I’m sure its a standard document and would probably be a good first step in figuring out just what he’s entitled to.

7. Ron - March 15, 2009

How sad to see such talent going to complete waste like this. One wishes that those who know and love him and have his ear would steer him toward more constructive pursuits instead of constantly rehashing this long-gone slight against his ample pride.

8. Brett Campbell - March 15, 2009

Too bad he hates the episode. It is the best ever.

9. Paul-Fitz - March 15, 2009

Seems only fair for the guy to get his dues. But part of me thinks, he got paid allready, If I create a website for someone, and it makes them money, I could not expect to get more money off of them in the future for my creation.
He got paid, and that in my opinion is that. . .
(I’m sounding millitant, and do not mean to. Just an opinion, if anyone can change it, please do)
;)

10. Nicholas - March 15, 2009

It’s sad that the only way his greedy mouth will shut is when he’s dead. Sad because he is such a talented guy.

11. JR1701 - March 15, 2009

While Ellison is most definitely owed something for his work, his attitude and crassness are off-putting. Frankly, He doesn’t own his own work in this case (though he does have some claims on it) and he over-estimates the value of his contribution to Trek-lore.

12. Enterprise - March 15, 2009

Oh, is this the same guy that whined when his crappy script was changed?

13. Spotts1701 - March 15, 2009

But the thing is that Ellison’s drafts were practically unusable, and he was so dissatisfied with the rewrites made by most of the TOS writing team that he wanted his name off of the finished product.

I mean, it really comes down to the classic issue of “How much of the final product is Ellison’s work, and how much isn’t?”

14. OtterVomit - March 15, 2009

GOOD GUYS WIN, BAD GUYS LOSE, AND AS ALWAYS ELLISON PREVAILS!

15. Brad - March 15, 2009

He sounds like a whiney bitch to me! But, to his credit, I’m not a writer by profession, so I don’t know what writers are and arren’t entitled to be paid for, or what this whole thing is over. Looks like maybe we’ll get another writer’s strike? Yay!

16. RobertZ - March 15, 2009

I like Harlan Ellison a lot.
However, if one has a copy of INSIDE STAR TREK by Herbert F. Solow and Robert H. Justman, please read chapter 18.

17. Ensign RedShirt - March 15, 2009

He’s a great, great writer, but does he really have ground to stand on? If he signed the standard “work for hire” contract per WGA rules back in ’66, I doubt he has any ground to stand on. Of course, if he did sign a contract which gave him “ownership”, then this is an open and shut case.

How many times has he sued Paramount? Seems like this has happened before.

18. Decker Unit - March 15, 2009

Ellison & Paramount really need to get this worked out & put to rest once & for all. They really don’t need this kind of publicity for the upcoming movie.

I for one would love to see “City on the Edge of Forever” filmed the way Ellison originally envisioned it. Maybe the “Phase 2″ crew would give it a go.

19. T Drake - March 15, 2009

He’s said many times it was drastically altered …isn’t anything like he wrote… and NOW… He sues.

20. Adam Cohen - March 15, 2009

Work for hire contracts usually don’t allow for this type of post-facto compensation. Ellison took the characters created and developed by dozens of other people (Roddenberry, Coon, other writers, the actors, etc.) and made a derivative work in his own teleplay as well. To allow him any money beyond what he’s received up until this point will set a precedent that will open up numerous similar lawsuits by other writers for other programs.

Does Gene Coon’s estate have an equal right to claim royalties from his work on “Space Seed” and the character of Khan Noonien Singh? Of course not. It took decades for Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster to get their ownership of Superman, and the facts of their case were much more favorable (that team invented Superman outright, Ellison wrote a story based on existing characters primarily). I don’t begrudge Ellison making an effort to get money, but unless he had paper from Desilu/Paramount saying he had some right to future earnings (which he probably doesn’t), then he’s not going to get far.

21. dalek - March 15, 2009

Didn’t Roddenberry have to drastically rewrite the episode cos Ellison had Scotty as a 23rd century drug addict?

In any case, Paramounts a multi-billion dollar Trek money making machine and Ellison deserves his cut from merchandising of arguably the best episode of the series.

Paramount did something similar with Nimoy I believe, which was the main reason he wouldn’t return for Phase 2.

22. Barking Alien - March 15, 2009

Part of me thinks he deserves it as anyone would for work completed, etc., and another part says, “He just figured this out now?” Ellison is notoriously known to put down what they did to his script and then take credit for any praise (and payment I suppose) for the episode.

Again, I think he’s right but I’m not a fan of how he goes about it.

AD

23. Demonfafa - March 15, 2009

The man has plenty of money – This is all just his ego and nothing more. I agree with his principal, but the more he whines about money, the less I really care about his royalties.

24. Captain Presley - March 15, 2009

Does William Ware Theiss get paid because Hallmark shows his costume designs on their ornaments? Does the set designer for “City On The Edge Of Forever” get paid for their designs being rendered on the ornament?

Ellison was paid to do a job 43 years ago. Job done. Got paid. Get over it.

25. dalek - March 15, 2009

#22 I know what you mean, but you got to admire his balls. One lone writer Vs a multi-billion dollar corporation. He has balls of steel.

26. Steve J. - March 15, 2009

How will this affect the “Of Gods and Men” production and the “Star Trek New Voyages” episode which featured the Guardian of Forever?

27. dalek - March 15, 2009

#26 not at all. Neither productions earnt any money. There is not cut for Ellison to have.

28. krikzil (aka Lixy) - March 15, 2009

I’ll be curious to see how this resolves. Heck, Nimoy’s lawsuit over royalties didn’t get resolved until they wanted him back for the films and he had that leverage.

29. The Gorn Identity - March 15, 2009

Ellison is growing angrier and more bitter as every year passes. The dude just needs to relax.

30. AJ - March 15, 2009

Best to ignore all the vitriol and gnashing of teeth, and enjoy a great Trek ep.

31. Adam Cohen - March 15, 2009

Sadly, this has the looks of a shakedown lawsuit- where Ellison is making a large amount of noise hoping public opinion among the fanbase will prompt CBS/Par to cut him a check and shut him up. His pattern indicates two-dimensional thinking…

32. Jeyl - March 15, 2009

Hmm. I remember when Artisan did the DVDs for Rambo, the Ultimate Edition, they compared Sylvester Stallone to Arnold Schwarzenegger.

When Artisan released “Total Recall”, Arnold was paid something around $70,000 for his participation in doing a commentary track, and Stallone did his for “First Blood” for nothing. I’ve listened to both commentaries and let me tell you, Stallone defines what makes a commentary track good.

The way I see it, there are two types of talent. One that only does work for money (respectable of course), and the other who wants to do it so he can do it. The way he calls some writers ‘amateurs’ when they do work for nothing I think is disingenuous. I know writers who love to talk about their works just for the sake of talking about it. Not because it’s a money making scheme, but because it’s something they believe in and want to talk about.

I also don’t like his attitude that he thinks the studio should just send him a DVD copy. Remember how he kept on bringing up people who get paid? Well, what about the programmers doing the DVD menus, editors putting together the special features, sound designers working on the sound mixes and video technicians making sure the video source looks great? God forbid he ever pay to support their work.

33. OneBuckFilms - March 15, 2009

I’m not a lawyer, but I have to admire the honesty of a man who says openly he’s in it for the money, and not some artistic or exposure reasons.

34. The Gorn Identity - March 15, 2009

So, if you write an episode for a TV show (a show you didn’t create) does it mean you retain rights to and royalties to any characters and concepts for said episode?

I don’t see how. I’m sure Ellison was contracted and paid to WRITE an episode, not take ownership of it. I wish Gene Roddenberry was still alive. He’d chew Ellison up in true Roddenberry fashion.

35. Dennis Bailey - March 15, 2009

I love Harlan Ellison. God bless the old coot, and f— Paramount. LOL

36. Izbot - March 15, 2009

Never one to mince words…

37. JimJ - March 15, 2009

Let’s see, Gerrold needs to get paid every time a tribble appears everywhere, then….and so on. I think Harlan must be hardup for money. Probably reeling in this wonderful economy and needs to buy gas for his boat. Frankly, this lawsuit is pointless and is all about someone stepping on his ego because they did a typical rewrite to make it work for a TV show. Let’s see, I’m 42 years old…and so is Harlan’s gradge. Geez, gads, man……get over it, already!

38. Adam Cohen - March 15, 2009

#35, Your sentiments aside, do you think his claim has real legal merit? Do you think a Federal District judge will really open up this can of worms for thousands of writers to claim similar rights? I’m no fan of Paramount (CBS/Viacom/Conglomerate Corp.) but in this case, have they done anything differently than other studios?

39. Liz - March 15, 2009

He comes across as a real pain in the ass. I have no idea regarding the merits of the lawsuit. “City” was a great episode.

40. JimJ - March 15, 2009

Make that the word “grudge” on #37….either way, it’s still pathetic!

41. Justin Olson - March 15, 2009

Ellison deserves 25% of all sales that contain his “City” characters and plot. When I buy Season One on Blu-ray for $80 on April 28th, that means he should get his $.68 from Paramount/CBS.

80 dollars / 29 episodes = $2.75
$2.75 / 4 = $.68

42. THX-1138-Star Trek: Timmy! - March 15, 2009

Dennis, all that lovey stuff aside and Paramount hate, do you think Harlan Ellison has any right to any further compensation? Obviously nobody here is privy to the exact details of the original contract signed, but I bet it’s not dissimilar to the recording contracts I signed when I play on someone’s CD or TV recording. Basically, I got paid for the session. If the CD or TV show goes on to make a jillion dollars I am not owed anything else. I knew that going in. And I have played on some recordings that ended up doing pretty well.

If I wanted a bigger slice of the pie, I should record my own stuff that makes the huge bucks. And maybe Harlan Ellison should create and produce his own TV show.

43. JeFF - March 15, 2009

In all the years I can remember, this miserable old b*tch has been whining and contributed nothing but an endless spew of complaints; making feeble (VERY feeble) attempts to cash in on Trek.

He must be silenced. Give him the $20 he deserves and may he shut up forever. The notion of seeing his face again makes me sick.

44. Dennis Bailey - March 15, 2009

#38: As a non-lawyer without a thorough familiarity with the specific facts in the case my opinion of its merits would be a poor one.

What I know, as a matter of record, is that Ellison has brought such quixotic suits in the past and has been somewhat successful, and also that long-shot lawsuit from “little guys” challenging the business practices of the studios have occasionally surprised everyone by succeeding – see Buchwald v. Paramount (1990). So I’ll watch the progress of this one with interest.

45. Gojira Shippi-Taro - March 15, 2009

Harlan Ellison is a very little man who has a far larger image of himself than reality reflects.

Every single thing he has written apart from City is complete self-masturbatory crap. It’s some of the most impenetrable SF ever written, simply because Harlan thinks he’s a smart guy.

He didn’t want to have his name associated with City because it didn’t match his image of whatever he thought it should have been (hint, moron, blatant drug use was never going to get on network TV in the late 60’s. Blatant drug use wasn’t going to get in Trek even if the networks would have OKed it.)

Harlan is a very very little man.

His opinion has never mattered before, and it does not matter now.

46. fansince9 - March 15, 2009

I believe Ellison knows the next film will probably do well and increase Paramount’s earnings. He just wants in on the cash flow, and that just sounds like a bitter old man, to me. It doesn’t seem to be doing him any favors, either.

47. fred - March 15, 2009

Anthony,

Be careful about publishing photos from the episode, he might sue you and want paid!

48. Jared Butcher - March 15, 2009

Right pay the man, cause I don’t want to hear him talk about it any gods damn more.

49. fred - March 15, 2009

He was paid for his script, should have been “end of story.”

50. Enterprise - March 15, 2009

I guess this must mean the new Trek movie is gonna be huge

51. Bob - March 15, 2009

Before any of us judge anything – either in favor of him getting paid or not – we should see a copy of his EXACT, SIGNED contract. They’re usually VERY specific on how and under what circumstances the writers are entitled to any money…

52. Gojira Shippi-Taro - March 15, 2009

Actually, I’ll amend my previous post:

If City had remained in its original form, it would be as low as the complete schlock that Ellison has published elsewhere. Only Gene Coon’s revisions made the episode the classic that it was.

Ellison is a hack. And not a very good one.

53. lostrod - March 15, 2009

Harlan’s attitude is a bit rediculous.

I’m a programmer. I get requests all the time to write a new subroutine or variation of a program – as needed. I amy write a greate subroutine but it would occur to me that I should OWN the underlying code.

Sheesh.

54. Chris Basken - March 15, 2009

I wonder if he’d be so gung-ho about the money if City on the Edge of Forever tanked. If his script brought Trek down, would Paramount be justified in getting compensation out of him?

Funny how these guys who demand “their due” only seem to do it after their script (or whatever) takes off. Then they want to share the wealth.

Do you think Arthur Heinemann (writer of The Way to Eden) is demanding royalties? Of course not. That episode was panned.

Ellison knew what he was doing when he signed that contract. Now he wants to change the rules because he smells money.

Well, good for him if he can get it, but why should we care?

55. Ran - March 15, 2009

Where can I get the “2004 Hallmark Guardian ornament”?

56. RedShirtWalking - March 15, 2009

So, Harlan’s fine with his creation being exploited as long as he’s cut in on the profits?

Yeah…uh-huh…OK.

Look, I’ll give him his due as a writer. He wrote a good story and then he SOLD IT to Desilu and Star Trek. He was paid. End of story. This isn’t an endless revenue stream just because Paramount authorizes an ornament or a series of books that refer to what happened in “The City on the Edge of Forever.”

Harlan doesn’t deserve a dime and I hope his suit is thrown out. I’m tired of people revering this guy when all he does it b!tch.

57. Carlg - March 15, 2009

I don’t know, Mr. Ellison may be in the right in his case, but by God he makes it tough for you to sympathise with him. He’s like the Ty Cobb of SF writers.

And frankly, this blatantly-timed lawsuit just looks really ugly.

@45: “I Have no Mouth and I Must Scream” isn’t exactly chopped liver…

58. dontgivadamn - March 15, 2009

Give him a few mil and tell him to F*** off and shut up. no one really cares that he didnt get all his money cept him. count your losses and move on, by the time the hearing is over and there is a final verdict he will prolly b dead anyway

59. Draco - March 15, 2009

Ellison has been bitching about this for years, we all know that. He was a victim of a bad contract 40+ years ago. We all accept that. However, the thankfully-inimitable Mr. Ellison has only himself to blame for signing the damn contract in the first place. He was compensated for his work back then, and crappy as he was treated, everything was within the bounds of standard practice for 1960s network television.

No one back then could have predicted what Star Trek would become, and he is royally pissed that he can’t cash in on more of it. But forty years of bitching and suing and bitching some more hasn’t gotten him a thing out of Paramount. If there was merit to his case — if his original contact had not been fulfilled — something would have come from it years ago.

Any judge should look over the facts, and promptly throw the case out. It’s ridiculous. Hell, Ellison himself is ridiculous. But in today’s society, it’s possible that he’ll actually get something out of it this time…which is rather sad.

60. McCoy - March 15, 2009

He’s certainly over the top—but I really don’t blame him. He’s right.

61. Chris Basken - March 15, 2009

If Ellison wins this I think Paramount should then turn around and go after every TOS writer still alive and sue them for writing such bad crap that it got their series canceled after only 2 seasons and only barely brought back for a 3rd.

62. flyff penya - March 15, 2009

Any way, I love this. And I don’t care that a company is trying to shamelessly make money off of me–no company is ever in business to LOSE money, is it? They’ve come up with an unusual product that a target consumer may want…and frankly I think I’ll have an easier time affording this than a bazillion-dollar replica model

63. THX-1138-Star Trek: Timmy! - March 15, 2009

I have to tell you, in the opinion of someone who has signed a pay-for-play contract, I don’t think Harlan is a victim of anything, including bad judgement. Nobody pulled a swtch-a-roo on him. He knew what he signed. And if he didn’t then he will have to admit to being a mindless twit (oops, sorry for saying twit).

I realize that his wasn’t exactly a pay-for-play contract but I’ll wager it’s something similar, as I stated before.

And if you “Give him a few mil and tell him to F*** off and shut up.” then every writer who ever wrote anything ever in the history of everything will all come banging on the door for their money. Even the musicians will want to be paid for their past recording efforts.

Wait a sec……….

Go Harlan!

64. THX-1138-Star Trek: Timmy! - March 15, 2009

And #62

What? Huh?

65. Sybok's Secret Brother - March 15, 2009

I think that Mr. Ellison is more making a point than really expecting to get any money.
Aside from any rewriting by Roddenberry (Actually DC Fontana) when Ellison wrote “City” he was a young writer who signed a contract that basicly screwed him out of any future rights or royalites as was common then. The same happened with the actors likenesses which are permanent property of Paramount and Co to use and, until a few years ago, they did not recieve any compensation fot it.
Writer are even less visible than the actors and believe it or not, actors are not up very high on the totem pole of hollywood.
Perhaps this lawsuit may bring some light to the lack of respect and compensation that writers in the Hollywood televison industry endure.

Or maybe Ellison is just a bitter old fart…

66. Draco - March 15, 2009

63 – Bingo. Standard practice back then was something akin to pay-for-play. Ellison sold the script. From that point on they can rewrite it to their heart’s content. I’m absolutely positive the contract didn’t promise him a percentage of gross or make any allowance for a percentage of subsequent marketing. That kind of stuff was unheard of back then.

Ellison doesn’t have a leg to stand on, and you can bet the timing of this is everything.

67. Draco - March 15, 2009

65 – Your last comment is correct.

Ellison himself as said, as reported in this very article, that he wants the Money and nothing but the money. He isn’t doing this to help other writers, or to make any kind of point. He wants money for something that he has *no part of*.

68. Sadiegal - March 15, 2009

Well here’s the scarry thing: If Ellison can be paid for everything subsequent to that episode containing those elements, then that creates a precedent to show that the same thing can be done for writers who had a part in anything having to do with Star Trek–or any other product–in the same fashion. I’m not sure Paramount, or any studio can afford to do that. This sounds like he’s just trying to cause some trouble, and perhaps that he may even have a bone to pick with this new activity for Star Trek. Otherwise, why would he wait until now?

69. Sybok's Secret Brother - March 15, 2009

#67 Yeah – that’s my punchline… ;-)

70. Sybok's Secret Brother - March 15, 2009

#68 – He’s gonna make $$ off of the interviews and little bit of attention he’s about to get.

Please understand that I have enormus respect for Ellison’s work and ability – He is a total jerk, however.

Herbert…

71. Sadiegal - March 15, 2009

Adding on to my comments on 68, that’s what is why companies don’t like unions–as Detroit is learning a hard lesson about.

If they keep this up, Hollywood production studios may end up moving overseas too, just to escape from this kind of legal manipulation. If they put up with this too much, Hollywood writers may just end up putting themselves out of business with all of this.

72. Chingatchkook - March 15, 2009

Ellison’s whining reminds me of reading about how Tracey Ullman sued Fox for royalties that were supposedly owed due to the success of the Simpsons. Her logic in thinking that she was owed a cut of the pie was about as daft as Ellison’s. Ullman’s lawsuit failed; and like Ullman, I very much doubt that Ellison will get anywhere with this.

#56 (RedShirtWalking) said it best. “Look, I’ll give him his due as a writer. He wrote a good story and then he SOLD IT to Desilu and Star Trek. He was paid. End of story.”

I couldn’t agree more.

73. Canon Schmanon - March 15, 2009

I’ve had the displeasure of meeting Harlan Ellison. I probably shouldn’t even say that, because he might sue me. He’s rather litigious, and feels he’s never gotten his due for being the great writer (in his own mind) that he is.

He only brings this new lawsuit up now because of the upcoming release of the new film. He’s a bitter, petty man. To fester this long over some perceived injustice is a sign of how small he really is.

Sorry to be so blunt, but like I said, I’ve had personal experience with him. I was not impressed with his prima donna attitude and his treatment of those around him. Few writers have as overblown an attitude about themselves as Ellison. In my opinion, he has a sociopathic case of short-man’s syndrome.

74. Bob Tompkins - March 15, 2009

Sorry gang:

Let me be the first to say Harlan Ellison is a one-note hack, his every work derivative of something someone else wrote before he did.

In 1966, the contracts were unfairly and completely studio and production company slanted. Stars were only paid for a certain number of syndicated reruns. There was no codicil covering characters, items or themes created within the scope of a television series. The owner of the series owned the rights to everything that showed up in that series. Could gene Coon’s estate sue for his co-creation, the Klingons? No.

Was it fair? No. But it’s the way it was. Writers and stars have negotiated on video releases with strikes even threatened and done over the new markets for the old material. That too, has been settled by agreements more favorable to the talent than before.

Seems like Coon would have had a much stronger case than Ellison had he even envisioned pursuing it.

Ellison has always bitched and moaned about Roddenberry’s rewrite of the script. Even if Ellison had a contractual case, he cannot prove which elements were his idea and which were Roddenberry’s or, for that matter, anyone else who touched the script. He was hired to create a drama within the framework and confines of the Star Trek series.

He was paid for a certain number of drafts, maybe a final draft screenplay and that is all he is entitled to [and perhaps a few reruns as were the stars]. He can rattle all the sabres he wants- he’s still just pissing into the wind.

The sooner he goes away, the better off Sci-Fi as a whole will be.

75. DGill - March 15, 2009

I respect Harlan Ellison as a writer, whose ideas and stories have been a delight to watch and read, but I do not respect Harlan Ellison’s behavior. I believe these legal diatribes of his continue to paint him in a negative light, not only in the eyes of the companies he’s after, but in the eyes of other writers.

76. Another Q - March 15, 2009

I read Ellison’s original script for “City”…it was horrendous
in comparison to what Roddenberry’s team modified it into.

He’s actually lucky they bought it because as much as it
was changed, they secondary writer’s could have changed
the Guardian & Keeler into something else and not paid
him a dime (and his original story probably would have
gone no where).

Final Note: Ellison was paid for what he gave and that’s that.

77. MC1 Doug (formerly Doug from Afghanistan) - March 15, 2009

#24: Sadly, William Ware Theiss died in December 1992.

78. The Governator - March 15, 2009

Yeah, he definitely takes things to the extreme. I don’t blame him, necessarily, but I think he’s pushing this a little too far. There’s also probably more to this than meets the eye. No matter how good a writer he is or how good his intentions are, in any case, he comes across as a real pain in the ass.

79. Adam Cohen - March 15, 2009

#76- where can I find a copy of Ellison’s original script?

80. The Angry Klingon - March 15, 2009

Whatever…Harlan’s version of CITY had to be changed so drastically to be filmed its almost unrecognizable to the filmed script. He was paid to write a script for a TV show and he got paid. Should the guy that invented the name KLINGON now get royalties every time the word Klingon is used. Ellison is a bitter old man who could never live up to his own press.

81. cbspock - March 15, 2009

He needs to get over himself.

82. Calgary Flames Superfan - March 15, 2009

Give him a candy bar, a new package of Depends and shiny silver dollar and send him on his way. He’ll go senile and forget about it anyway. The only reason these kind of people make a stink is because they feel they’re no longer relevant, and sorry to say, he’s not. Shut up, Harlan.

83. GilmourD - March 15, 2009

From everything I’ve seen, there’s probably reason that Paramount doesn’t want to deal with him. He could be quite rude, insulting, and and downright mean.

Here’s a link to an experience that the artist for one of my favorite web comics (Penny Arcade) had with him.

http://www.penny-arcade.com/2005/09/26/the-story/

84. starfall42 - March 15, 2009

The other thing to note is that Ellison isn’t exactly a saint in his treatment of writers working for him — just ask the contributors to “The Last Dangerous Visions”.

85. Commodore Z - March 15, 2009

He’s been beating this dead horse for four decades. One hopes he can someday get a life, although I wouldn’t bet on it.

86. Jefferies Tuber - March 15, 2009

Who knows what the contract says? And if the WGA thought there was a claim that set precedent for its members, they’d be in there like flies on shit.

The not-so-invisible factor here is that Harlan Elison is widely viewed to be an unbearable prick.

In the context of Silver Age SciFi, there’s nothing even slightly original about a guardian of time travel or speculative fiction about how WWII might have turned out differently.

87. harley3k - March 15, 2009

That was great…

88. "Uncle" Clay Farrow - March 15, 2009

This guy is such a snartch, I’m afraid that if I were to name my daughter “Edith” he’d pop out from nowhere and demand that I hand over her left ear and three toes from her right foot!

He sold his story, he got paid for his story, END of story. Everything since then has been the bitching and kvetching of an unimportant, barely-talented, bitter old man.

89. Craig - March 15, 2009

He has no legal standing in this case. He is just ticked off at the world and is trying to utilize the new move to his advantage. As several people have already mentioned (especially # 74), the contracts that were written and signed back in the 1960’s were not as strong as they are today.

The only people that will make any money out of this guys antics are the lawyers. They are the ones that get the paycheck at the end of the day.

90. Tommy Servo - March 15, 2009

#79 – He published his original script in a book of the same name back several years ago. I’m sure it is out of print, but you should be able to pick up a used copy on Amazon.

It is an interesting read – in addition to the script, he details all the back-and-forth between himself and Roddenberry during and after the production of the episode.

91. DWNicolo - March 15, 2009

Three words, go, Harlan go,.

92. JoBlo - March 15, 2009

I’m sick of this guy.

He’s old and he’s been very successful in his career. Maybe he can go count his large sums of cash write something that he can get payed for and stop spewing hatred.

He should have been payed for the interview if anything — in fact he probably was. Now what? He wants to be payed for the interview, payed for the use of the interview, probably wants a percentage of the DVD sales since they feature a snippet of his interview.

I get that he works for the money but must he be such an outspoken whore. Why do we need to hear from him every time he wants to sue someone.

93. Konrad Lenz - March 15, 2009

Terry Nation’s estate still has to be asked for permission and gets royalties EVERY time a dalek is used in Dr Who (remember a few years back there was a legal tussle between the Nation estate and the BBC that could have meant no daleks in the new series). They also recieve royalties from merchandising.

This is fairly common with writers of episodic television.

Harlan should get what he is due.

He’s a fine writer by the way. The man who wrote An Edge in My Voice, A Boy and His Dog, Memos From Purgatory. Man, that’s GREAT stuff. They are far better works than ANYTHING that ever was on Trek.

94. The Wild Man of Borneo - March 15, 2009

I would love to hear what he thinks about the new Trek movie.

95. The Original Mark T. - March 15, 2009

Lets face it. We have no idea what the original contract says. He may have had a stipulation in there that allowed him to retain some kind of ownership over his creations like the Guardian, etc.

While I am not one to play the “all corporations are evil” card, I have seen some friends go through some similar contractual miseries with the studios. In one case, a friend who had designed some “guest characters” for a relatively popular genre tv show, had it in his contract that he would receive profit participation from any merchandising of said creations. As you might guess, despite the fact that toys were flying off the shelves, no payments were forthcoming. The studio claimed that after all of the costs, etc. were paid off, there just wasn’t any money left. I don’t know what transpired after that. As far as I can tell there was no way to prove fraud that wouldn’t involve years of expensive litigation.

So, the moral of the story is to always have an ironclad contract. Did his contract cover those rights back in the day? Who knows? No one could predict that this little tv show would endure this long, creating a universe of ancillary products. As my friend saw, studios are very good at exploiting gray areas in any contract. Only a court will be able to finally put this crap to rest.

Anyway, it’s not like this is the only time Harlan has fought this kind of battle. I believe he won a judgment against James Cameron for using elements from two of his “Outer Limits” stories, to create “the Terminator”.

96. GaryS - March 15, 2009

He is suing now because he figures Paramount doesnt want any negative publicity associated with the Trek brand as their new film is released so, they will pay him to get it out of the news .

97. Capt. Jax - March 15, 2009

All I’m going to say on the matter is this.

If Mr Elison’s contract does state that he was to be paid a royalty, than he should be paid what is due him.

On the flip side. I can’t wait for some of you younger people to get old and screwed out of something that was due you. I’ve read some of your post and you young people all seem to think that the older generations should just keep silent and go away.

I thought like you when I was young, I disrespected old people, but as I get older I find that each generation get more and more abusive of the generation that came before. It comes back to bite you in the A_S when it is finally your turn to be old. So laugh while you can and hope to hell you die young!!

98. Brent - March 15, 2009

I think the original script for City had some very strong dramatic elements. The character of Trooper was a poignant symbol of the times. The idea of a Star Fleet officer being immoral and unscrupulous. Janice Rand in a strong role. The pirate sship which was later incorporated into the plot of “Mirror, Mirror”. The original speech Edith Keeler gives is much more relevant to the story than the one Roddenberry rewrote. Jame Blish combined the elements of the original script and one of the rewrites when he adapted the episode for his series of novelizations. He retained Ellison’s original speech where Edith talks of hunger and cold being real but not sadness. “We all go to bed a little hungry at night but it is possible to find peace in sleep knowing you have lived another day and hurt no one doing it”.

The biggest change done by Fontana, Roddenberry and Coon was changing the ending. As for Scotty dealing drugs which I heard Roddenberry say in person at an appearance w the blooper reels back in the 70’s, well, Scotty is not even in the original script. Does he deserve the money? Probably, as does David Gerrold for the ST TNG writers guide and Sam Peeples for giving us Trek as we know it today and Dorothy Fontana and the estates of Gene Coon and Bob Justman

99. Steve - March 15, 2009

@ 97

You sound almost as bitter as Harlan Ellison. For that, I pity you.

As for Ellison, it would be a lot easier to support him if didn’t come across as so belligerent and self-absorbed, which has always been his M.O.

100. Harry Ballz - March 15, 2009

I remember hearing years ago that Harlan’s contract with Desilu allowed him to keep the rights to certain aspects of the script, mainly the character of Sister Edith Keeler and The Guardian Of Forever.

This might explain why Paramount didn’t use the Keeler character in the crappy “Generations”.

Remember how all we saw of Kirk’s love interest, Antonia, was a voice (off screen) and a shadowy figure up on a horse? Imagine if they had gotten Joan Collins to do the voice and we heard Jim Kirk allude to loving Edith and not letting her get away? THAT would have been a much stronger narrative, but the producers would have had to pay Ellison for the privilege……and you can’t have THAT!

101. Tiberius - March 15, 2009

I hate to point this out but Harlan Ellison did successfully get a cash settlement and a credit over the Terminator being a rip-off of Demon with A Glass Hand and Soldier from the Outer Limits. So, he could get his wish with this suit as well. Paramount will cave rather than fight off a lawsuit.

102. Triton - March 15, 2009

I hope that Harlan Elison gets that to which he is legally entitled, not what he thinks he deserves. He has had a chip on his shoulder against “Star Trek” ever since his experience on working on “City on the Edge of Forever.” It’s difficult to generate much sympathy for him because of his trucelent nature and boorish behavior.

Fans seem to have definite opinions on this matter, but I believe that is unfair since we don’t have all the facts of what was in Harlan Elison’s contract.

103. Shatner_Fan_Prime - March 15, 2009

#97 … That’s the sort of speech someone gives once in awhile which can only be replied to with …… “So, um, anyone watch the game last night?”

:-)

#100 … Harry, I agree, that (using Keeler) would’ve been nice.

104. sean - March 15, 2009

Pfft. So many people seem angry with Harlan – for what? The man is an excellent writer, despite claims to the contrary. His original script was and is fantastic, and won a WGA award (not the Coon version, not even the second draft he wrote after it was declared ‘not Star Trek’, the one and only original) and the acclaim of many of his peers.

As for Scotty dealing drugs, that’s a ridiculous claim perpetuated by none other than Gene Rodenberry, and he had to eventually eat crow publicly and admit he ‘misremembered’ the script. Both Genes made rather dubious claims about Harlan’s original storyline, and over time inflated the ‘unfilmable’ aspect. Bob Justman said it was one of the most beautifully written screenplays he’d ever read, and of all the former Star Trek alums, I’d trust him to be honest about the matter.

The filmed version is one of the best Star Trek stories ever told, and I think that speaks volumes about how strong Harlan’s original story was, as it keeps most of the basic thematic elements. Though changing Keeler’s character to imply anti-war movements were dangerous and would doom us all still irks me to this day (and undoubtedly irks Harlan). What an incredibly anti-Star Trek idea to imply pacifism is harmful!

At any rate, Harlan created those characters, they did not come from Gene Rodenberry, Coon or anyone else. The Guardian, Sister Edith, etc. were all original elements courtesy of Harlan Ellison, and he deserves to be credited for them, whether it’s the day after or 100 years later.

105. The Last Maquis - March 15, 2009

Harlan Ellison, I like his integrity. there’s much to respect about him, But part of Me wants to shout out loud “You wrote One Episode!!” Granted Probably The Best of The Original Series. If He wasn’t a Little Old Lay now, I could respect him more But, Like a lot of people here feel, geez just drop it.

106. Radioactive Spock - March 15, 2009

yeah. i cant say how i feel about it without knowing whether his deal 40 years ago stipulated anything about royalties. i think once he got paid ownership likely was passed to desilu. but if it turns out he’s owed he damn well should get his money.

107. JoBlo - March 15, 2009

I wonder how much money this guy made from actually working versus suing for things roughly related to or inspired by his work.

I’m getting the vibe that most of his fortune came from … suing. Does he even write anymore? Or just loudly and publicly … sue.

97 Capt. Jax. I haven’t read all of these comments, but I know I made a statement about his age. That’s not disrespect for my elders. It’s just pity. I dearly hope when I’m his age, especially if I make it big that royalties are a trifle and that I don’t put myself through this kind of stress unnecessarily or for just a little money.

108. Canon Schmanon - March 15, 2009

105 – The Last Maquis – I really really don’t want to know how you know Ellison is a “Little Old Lay.” That should be kept private :)

109. tribble farmer - March 15, 2009

He’s awesome. And totally right. It’s good to see somebody who has the guts to be enough of an ass about something to get what’s owed to them. xD

110. NaradaAlpha - March 15, 2009

truth is, ellison doesnt care about anything but money…he doesnt care if his actions destroy the new film and star trek itself, he doesnt care if his actions destabilize the economy so badly that we fall from a recession into a full-fledged depression, he doesnt care about ANYTHING but money…that is the classic definition of a VILLIAN… AND a homeland security threat…hmmmmmm….

111. James - March 15, 2009

Maybe he should have read the fine print when he singed the rights of his script over to Paramount. Evidently his agent didn’t read the contract either. Merchandising is usually reserved to the company whom releases the product. Not the person that came up with it. They get a cut but not on merchandising unless stated in legal form at the time of signing. Hash it out over the next 20 years between lawyers if you want and in the end he may get a settlement. By then it probably wouldn’t matter. Besides no one would even recognize him or care if paramount had told him to take his script and stick it. And to quote mr. ellison “if I offend you, you probably deserved it!”

112. Enterprise - March 16, 2009

Dear Harlan,

You didn’t create Star Trek. Sorry.

Signed,
Your pal

113. James Heaney - Wowbagger - March 16, 2009

I don’t much like Harlan Ellison, and City on the Edge has never been my favorite.

Nonetheless, he looks right on the merits, and writers don’t get treated with nearly the respect they deserve. Thank goodness for him; I hope he wins.

114. John Gill - March 16, 2009

Although “City On The Edge Of Forever” has always been one of my favorites, Harlan has never been a favorite, I read something years ago by him either in STARLOG Magazine or in one of the Fotonovels that rubbed me the wrong way about him, he was negative about the whole Trek world and the fans.

115. geronimo - March 16, 2009

@112: he doesn’t claim to have created Star Trek. He claims to have created specific characters and storyline, that Paramount is getting money for. The man is a son of a bitch in person, but his script was brilliant, the best TOS episode and one of the five best ST episodes overall. Pay him the damn money while he’s still alive.

116. Enterprise - March 16, 2009

Yes, he created “specific:” characters and storyline. Didn’t he already get paid for that years ago?

117. Mal Aldridge - March 16, 2009

Paying his should be done just because it is right.

How about we put the word out to boycott the new film until he Harlan gets his due.

118. Oregon Trek Geek - March 16, 2009

I don’t know enough about all of this to know if he has a legal claim on City On The Edge Of Forever and associated characters, etc. Did he sell the script/story idea/whatever outright? With no further royalities? A one-time flat fee and that’s it, it’s Paramount’s property from that moment on? If he did, then it doesn’t look good. I’m no lawyer. Perhaps Paramount will want to reach an out of court settlement with him to just be done with it.

But I do like him, he’s a breath of fesh air in that video interview. Being in business myself, I agree with what he’s saying…

119. Cowboy Steve - March 16, 2009

Ellison is indeed a talented writer (probably not as talented as he thinks), but he is an incredibly immature, unpleasant human being. He pulled a gun on one of his friends because Ellison made a bet that he lost.

http://jophan.org/mimosa/m12/white.htm

120. Hesht - March 16, 2009

Harlan Ellison is suing someone AGAIN!? Look, if it was anyone else I’d probably be agreeing that he should be paid, I’m just sick of how obsessed with suing people he is.

121. Jai1138 - March 16, 2009

I’m a screenwriter partly because of Harlan Ellison and he remains an inspiration not just because of his work but because of the man’s attitude. However, even I recognize that the work of a television writer, particularly back in 1966, pretty much becomes the property of the production company/studio/network that’s paying him. I doubt there was any room in his contract for royalties and rights. Hell, the actors on the show only originally got paid a weekly salary and royalties for two sets of reruns (as far as I know),

122. Jai1138 - March 16, 2009

The great indifferent system is pretty much set up to screw those irritating “creative” types and it’s pretty much always been that way.

123. The Last Maquis - March 16, 2009

#108. Canon Schmanon

I just found a picture of you, aged it about 5 years, and made a comparison:P

124. Paulaner - March 16, 2009

He has already been paid back in the 60s. Why does he want more money, now? As much as I know, royalties must be specifically stated in the signed contract.

125. LoyalStarTrekFan - March 16, 2009

Wow, maybe Harlan Ellison shouldn’t mince words and tell us what he really thinks. :)

Sorry, couldn’t resist.

He’s going to give himself a heart attack.

Hopefully he’ll let his lawyer do all the talking because judges do no put up with that kind of attitude. BTW, Paramount and CBS have excellent lawyers, he better have a great lawyer or he isn’t going to get one red cent.

112, agreed.

117, no, let’s not.

126. LoyalStarTrekFan - March 16, 2009

BTW, the “other people” who made comments for the B5 DVD probably did it because they are very proud of their work and love the product. It’s a shame he doesn’t.

I feel sorry for the “young lady” who called him. I doubt she makes the decisions about who gets paid and yet she apparently got an earful from an angry writer. As someone who used to work retail, I can’t stand people who behave that way. It’s unacceptable. If you’ve got a problem you should take it out on the people who make that decision or, at most, inform the messenger, for lack of a better term, the message you want delivered to the powers that be. But you should never take it out on someone who has no control over the issue. Mr. Ellison should learn that.

127. oztrek - March 16, 2009

Wow so many posts!

I wonder if the court will read them all?

There are so many interesting points raised here that clearly it is worth taking to the court just to get closure.

128. thorsten - March 16, 2009

hahaha.
Wow, Harlan, keep an eye on you blood pressure.

And don’t call him a scifi writer…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7lax0g5d6gM

129. John Gill - March 16, 2009

I just read chapter 18 in “The Making Of Star Trek”, as prescribed in an earlier post here, and, as of all accounts in the book, the final version of the “CITY ON THE EDGE OF FOREVER” that made it to the screen was re-written and re-focused so many times due to production costs, over budget, and a great story but not enough “Trek”, that it reads as though Harlan had very little to do with the final product. Although he did get sole credit on screen, there were three others involved in a complete re-write, and even Ellison saw so many changes in his original draft that he did not want his name on it at the time, he wanted his ghost writing name on it instead, but Gene Roddenberry persisted.

130. TheBigCW - March 16, 2009

Copies of the contract must exist as it’s the grounds for the suit.

As soon as it’s entered into public record as evidence, we’ll find out the ‘real deal’. :)

131. Selor - March 16, 2009

Hey may be talented, he may be good… but that is no excuse for such behavior… he does it now because Trek is now in GREAT FORM back to where it was once and he thought “Uh, now publics Eye is on Trek, now I can sue the hell out of them and can demand “Trucks full of money” and they will pay just that I shut up!”

132. Jovan - March 16, 2009

Folks, whether or not you like Mr. Ellison, the episode itself or the fact that his script was rewritten doesn’t really matter. He still created the story and its elements and thus he deserves compensation of some sort. It’s tiring seeing writers get sidelined like this all the time and I am very disappointed at the way Paramount is handling this. They could have saved themselves a whole lot of trouble if they set up an agreement with him long ago.

Writers have to make a living, not just on the initial television episode or movie, but anything else that uses their copyrighted settings or characters. Stop saying he’s greedy and try to put yourself in his shoes. Would you like being ignored every time you called the studio if you wrote a blockbuster movie and they made sequels without contacting you or paying any royalties whatsoever for the use of your intellectual property? You may not think it’s on the same scale, but making money on someone else’s work is still theft either way. Think about that.

As strongly as I feel about that, I agree: Let’s see the contract.

133. Check the Circuit - March 16, 2009

It’s kind of funny that Harlan references the “Relentless Trek Exploitations.” I interpret that to mean he feels the franchise has been taken advantage of by the corporation to the detriment of the property. But I guess as long as the exploitation is being perpetrated by others…he wants his cut. Isn’t that just a bit hypocritical?

134. Kirk, James T. - March 16, 2009

You know what, Ellison should just shut up. He might have created the character of the Guardian and of Edith Keeler but who cares? it was Gene Roddenberry’s creation and Ellison wouldn’t have had a story if Gene Roddenberry’s Characters weren’t in it.

this suing people for trivial matters like this should be against the law. Ellison didn’t create Star Trek so he should just get on with his life.

This is even more stupid than a woman suing McDonalds for not putting “hot” on hot coffee.

Get a life Ellison.

135. JB - March 16, 2009

21: “Didn’t Roddenberry have to drastically rewrite the episode cos Ellison had Scotty as a 23rd century drug addict?”

No. That mischaracterization was often made by Roddenberry in interviews but it was not correct on several levels. You can read Ellison’s original script, which is now available in print. There was a junior crewmember on the ship dealing in narcotics, who sets up the visit to the Guardian and is replaced by McCoy in the aired version. The final changes to the script were made by DC Fontana, not Roddenberry; in the original, Kirk was willing to sacrifice everything for Edith Keeler, but Roddenberry & crew felt it would be improper to have the protagonist of a TV series make that kind of choice. That change, along with several others, sent Ellison through the roof. Also, I think it was Ellison’s original script that won the Hugo award, not the aired version, but it’s been awhile since I read the book so I’m not sure.

136. screaming satellite - March 16, 2009

remember when we were all speculating the new film would have spock and nero use the guardian of forever for timtravel lol…Ellison would have a freaking field day if paramount had done that!

i can see him go all joe pesci from Goodfellas/Casino ‘you motherf**kers!! i get my f**kin lawyers on you!! say hello to my lille friend!! etc etc etc’

my understanding of it all is that if you sign a contract then thats it..i mean he’ll have been paid etc back then and thats that…no one could have foreseen treks success back then or that COTEOF would be so successful…i dont believe any of the original cast get royalties for the 60s show (they obviously got paid well for the movies and probably had % stuff on those..i think Leonard Nimoy had alot of bad dealings with paramount for a while b4 TMP which almost made him refuse to appear)…

that said it must sting when you see the episode you wrote always being listed as the best one and books etc based on it….plus i believe that others in similar situations have been compensated after campaigning for money for creating stuff even though they signed contracts that prevented them from recieving anything further

137. Charles H. Root, III - March 16, 2009

Pay the man!

For all of the crying we hear from the show biz plankton about piracy, peer-to-peer and file sharing, it’s become clear they need to get their own house in order first.

We’re almost 100 years into monopolistic industry practices where the real talent is still unpaid, ripped off and abused.

It’s no wonder that ShowBiz 2.0 consists of writers, photographers, film makers, musicians and other artists bypassing the established entertainment industry by going straight to the public.

Radiohead, Todd Rundgren, direct to DVD and Internet film makers and other indie artists have figured it out while the old school execs and cry babies like Lars Ulrich haven’t a clue. Go ahead you terrible lizards of the status quo and keep building your stage coaches and complaining about the next generation, their horseless carriages and new fangled gadgets.

I’m the president of an information technology, security and privacy consulting firm and am called on from time to time to make speeches or guest lectures in colleges.

Not that I agree with this position, but a fair number of today’s youth think it’s actually good Karma to pirate & share music & video files because of how the industry rips off the creative talent.

It’s interesting to note tat the initial pay-what-you-want online release of Radiohead’s “In Rainbows” generated more digital income than the band made in total from its previous album, “Hail to the Thief.” Especially interesting when you consider that only 38% of people paid something for it.

Clearly, people will pay artists but not crooks.

138. Check the Circuit - March 16, 2009

How much cash are we talking anyway? How many Trek paperbacks are sold these days? And specifically, the trilogy mentioned in the article? How many oraments were sold using the Guardian of Forever? (By the way, if I’m not mistaken, wasn’t the Guardian of Forever…as it appeared in the filmed episode…a Roddenberry creation? Harlan’s device to send a crew member into the past [and it wasn't McCoy] were the Guardians of Forever, a race of impossible old “timewatchers.” Roddenberry revised the episode to feature the GOF as know for cost purposes. Why would he get paid of an ornament that looks nothing like his concept?)

Are we really talking about a lot of money? Is it worth his legal costs? Maybe he’d be better served in writing an new book or script. Seriously. Now I could see his point if Paramount was launching a new show called Star Trek: Guardian of Forever.

Let it go…since it’s not about the principle.

139. screaming satellite - March 16, 2009

ellison reminds me of a short guy i knew in work – he was always threatening to sue people or get his lawyer on to people for what he considered to be wrong doings toward him – always looking for a fight – either verbally or physically over little stuff… it was quite amusing at first but then started to get really annoying and ultimatly (and perhaps inevitably) he turned on me one day and i got the full force of his anger for something he thought id done wrong against him (his dislike for me had been building up over the years and was just looking to ‘get me’ on something..anything)

eventually he was sacked for being an abusive little s**t but it was all very complex and unions and lawyers had to be involved in his departure (he wasnt going without a fight!!)

its not nice to be the target of abuse…

140. RedShirtWalking - March 16, 2009

He WAS paid. Back in the 60’s…when he sold the script. Someone made a good point earlier: Gene Coon’s estate doesn’t get paid for Klingons being used. Nimoy doesn’t get a cut every time someone flashes a Vulcan hand salute.

He sold his script to Desilu/Star Trek and then wanted nothing to do with the episode after it went through huge re-writes. He didn’t even want credit for it. He wanted to distance himself from it as much as possible.

He’s OK with exploiting it as long as he’s cut in for some of the cash.

Ellison doesn’t *deserve* anything. He was paid for his story.

141. section9 - March 16, 2009

Here’s why Paramount is afraid of Harlan Ellison.

Suppose they settle with Harlan and pay him, say, 500 thousand (just to pull a figure out of thin air).

What about Norman Spinrad’s estate? What about D.C. Fontana? David Gerrold? What about all the guys who wrote for TNG?

They will ALL come out of the woodwork, and they are ALL watching what Paramount does with Harlan. Ellison isn’t stupid; he’s hitting Paramount now because he’s probably seen some of the ten minute outtakes of the film and he knows that he has to strike while the iron is hot: this film is going to make Paramount a lot of money. Harlan wants to wet his beak, and why not?

The MINUTE this is settled, Paramount will have old Trek writers from all the series lining up at their door for money, just as their grosses from the new film are coming in. It may be in their interest to have Ellison take them to court so they can drag it out, for God’s sake.

142. screaming satellite - March 16, 2009

83 – http://www.penny-arcade.com/2005/09/26/the-story/

holy shit that was sooooo funny!!

143. Robert H. - March 16, 2009

With so many people claiming that they are owed money, whether they actually are or not, it’s hard to know if he is really owed money or that he just wants more than what he deserves.

144. screaming satellite - March 16, 2009

141 – exactly…whatever happens will set a prescident…like someone mentioned – even The Way to Eden writer will want some extra moolah

but yeah – coon was the inventor of the klingons, khan etc etc…if Ellison gets like 500 thou surely coons estate would want thrice that

plus this new movie is all about time travel etc – and changing events/timelines – not unlike COTEOF…and Ellison did do a similar thing with The Terminator….

In the words of Pesci in Casino Paramount could be in ‘a bad f**kin spot’

145. TonyD - March 16, 2009

#134 – “He might have created the character of the Guardian”

Actually, he didn’t; at least not the Guardian of the Universe as it was shown in the episode. If I remember correctly, his original script many years ago involved a race of humanoid aliens called the “Guardians of the Universe” who had among other things a machine that was capable of time travel. If I’m not mistaken, the sentient arch we saw in the final episode came about thru a later rewrite by another writer.

There are a lot of differences between Ellison’s original treatment (which is widely available) and the finished story that ended up on the screen. Whole characters and subplots were dropped (including a crewman who dealt in illicit substances), others were created by Roddenberry and D.C. Fontana, and it would be really hard given all the rewrites and people involved to point to aspects of the story and say they were 100% Ellison.

Even Edith Keeler was a somewhat different charaacter; her speech to the indigents at the shelter about how the future would be better was not written by Ellison (I believe he himself has said as much on numerous occasions).

146. screaming satellite - March 16, 2009

Harlan J Ellison was a great man…..but that was another life

147. boomer13 - March 16, 2009

If he is owed money then give it to him but it seems he comes out of the woodwork when there is a new movie, new tv show just around the corner. You would think he created Star Trek the way he talks.

148. lesser ajax - March 16, 2009

I would just point out that this case may be governed by the 1909 C/R act (rather than the 1976 act, which seems to post-date agreement between Ellison and the studio), and the 1909 act doesn’t recognize works made for hire. My recollection is that, under the 1909 act, courts will generally recognize that “[i]f he is solicited by a patron to execute a commission for pay, the presumption should be indulged that the patron desires to control the publication of copies and that the artist consents that he may, unless by the terms of the contract, express or implicit, the artist has reserved the copyright to himself.” Yardley v. Houghton Mifflen Co., 108 F.2d 28, 31 (2d Cir. 1939). I don’t know if that describes the exact allegations of Ellison’s complaint (and the complaint is not yet on Pacer), but, if it does, he will bear the burden of demonstrating that the contract granted him the rights he now asserts (rather than the presumption of ownership, as under the works made for hire provision of the modern act).

149. RTC - March 16, 2009

As a writer, I fully support the notion of writers being compensated fairly and honestly for their work. But as I understand it, Ellison *was* fairly and honestly compensated. He agreed to the terms at the time. He may not like the terms in hindsight, and I can even sympathize with him there. But he’s been having a childish temper tantrum about this for decades, and that’s sadly tainted his reputation as an otherwise outstanding SF writer. He needs to get over this.

150. Anthony Thompson - March 16, 2009

I love Harlan and his work. But did he get that agreement in writing? Because, essentially, he wrote one episode of ST. Can writers claim writes to everything in that episode unless explicitly agreed to in writing? I have my doubts. Would love to see Bob shed some light on this issue. If he dares! : )

151. Crusade2267 - March 16, 2009

Go Harlan! What took you so long?

152. Chris Basken - March 16, 2009

Harlan created Keeler and (possibly) the Guardian — two characters we’ve never seen again.

How, exactly, is he being exploited? What, exactly, would he be getting royalties for?

153. Dennis Bailey - March 16, 2009

#64: “I have to tell you, in the opinion of someone who has signed a pay-for-play contract, I don’t think Harlan is a victim of anything, including bad judgement. Nobody pulled a swtch-a-roo on him. He knew what he signed. And if he didn’t then he will have to admit to being a mindless twit (oops, sorry for saying twit).”

Well, uh – what exactly is in Ellison’s contract? If you don’t know that, what is your – or my, as I indicated above – opinion worth and why should anyone respect it?

Some folks say they’re tired of Ellison. I empathize. I’m tired of entitled Trek fans who leap to the defense of the Franchise the moment someone doesn’t tug their forelock in the direction of the Great Bird’s funeral urn. Fortunately, so is Paramount studios and they’re kicking you to the curb in May. :-)

154. vorta23492392932939230 - March 16, 2009

86. Jefferies Tuber – March 15, 2009
In the context of Silver Age SciFi, there’s nothing even slightly original about a guardian of time travel or speculative fiction about how WWII might have turned out differently.

I don’t doubt this but I’d love to see some more examples of this in print or elsewhere — as far as I knew the first ‘alternative WW2′ history was either Moon of Ice or Man in the High Castle… and those were both far after this episode. Can you point me to some of this stuff, since I love alternate history tales.

155. Locke for President - March 16, 2009

Not sure if his beef is legit or not, but all I can say is that I can’t stand the guy. He comes across as extremely arrogant.

And swearing every other words doesn’t make you edgy, it makes you look like trailer trash.

156. AriochRIP - March 16, 2009

Anyone else remember when Harlan Ellison was a writer? Those were good times.

157. S. John Ross - March 16, 2009

If he’s got the paperwork to back his claims, he should get what he asks for.

If he doesn’t have the paperwork to back his claims, he shouldn’t.

I assume (though I don’t know) that he wouldn’t bother with the suit unless he at least personally believed the ink on paper backs his claims.

But it all comes down to that, and – if necessary – a judge’s interpretation of that if any of the wording is unclear.

It isn’t about morality, or personalities, or anyone’s judgment of his work or the rewrites. It’s all about the contract, alpha to omega.

158. Dennis Bailey - March 16, 2009

#157:”If he’s got the paperwork to back his claims, he should get what he asks for.

If he doesn’t have the paperwork to back his claims, he shouldn’t.”

Exactly so.

Depends on the contract. Depends on case law. Depends on how good the lawyers are. Depends on the judge…

People who think that the outcome of legal hearings and trials are preordained by clear-cut kindergarten rules of “fairness” or can be predicted by evaluating the “merits” of two positions delivered in summary without specific reference to the exact facts, to contracts and law and precedent – such folks would be well-advised to live quietly, offend no one and stay as far away from any legal proceeding for as long as they live.

159. krikzil - March 16, 2009

“It isn’t about morality, or personalities, or anyone’s judgment of his work or the rewrites. It’s all about the contract, alpha to omega.”

Yup, exactly. And doesn’t matter that GR or whomever did rewrtiting, Ellison got the writer’s credit. He also may have merit since a lot of the media today was not imagined back then. Various other artists and writers have sued for royalties for DVDs, VHs, etc. and prevailed. Trek is in an unusual position since Paramount/CBS has been churning out product for over 40 years. It’s bad enough the actors only got residuals for a couple of episodes on the original series and those shows have played a billion times over the years.

160. Iowagirl - March 16, 2009

I like the guy, therefore his claim must be legit.

I don’t like the guy, therefore his claim can’t be legit.

I don’t give a damn whether the old fart’s right or not as I don’t care for that episode in the first place – main thing is ST09 will revive the franchise.

Please just tick…

161. jas_montreal - March 16, 2009

Gosh sakes paramount… pay the guy some money and make him happy.

162. Brett Campbell - March 16, 2009

156 – lol!

163. Brett Campbell - March 16, 2009

146 – Also very funny! :D

164. Harry Ballz - March 16, 2009

I went to some other site where they’re mentioning it’s all about some “Trilogy” series? What’s that all about? Was the Guardian used in that?

165. richpit - March 16, 2009

The guy needs to get over himself. It was an OK episode and the “Guardian” was an OK “character”. Trek would still be what it is now if the ep had never happened.

I’d assume he got paid whatever scale writers got paid back then for writing a screenplay. Get over it, cranky!

166. indranee - March 16, 2009

he should get some money. why’s Paramount being such an ass over this for so long? give the man his (due) credit and let it be.

167. sean - March 16, 2009

#164

Harry, the trilogy is mentioned right here in the article for pity’s sake! Are you using the internet while intoxicated again? ;)

168. Giampi - March 16, 2009

My god what an angry man, I don’t disagree with him
on getting paid but what a mouth!
In regard to star trek it all comes down to what the terms of the contract were.
I am sure nobody did force the guy the sign a contract,
so to go back now 40 years later and say I want more it is just plain wrong.
You make a deal you stick to it, if he did not ask for rights to the merchandise then he should not get
them now in retrospective.

169. sean - March 16, 2009

#165

Say what you will about the man, but COTEOF is consistently rated as the #1 episode of TOS, both by fans and non-fans alike. It is the only TOS episode (besides ‘The Menagerie’) to win a Hugo. It may not be your cup of tea, fair enough, but most recognize it as one of (if not THE) high points of the series.

170. Harry Ballz - March 16, 2009

#167

sean

….I’ll have you…(hic)….know that I resemble that remark!

You mean there’s an article attached to these comments? I thought it was just random choice! ;>)

171. Trek Nerd Central - March 16, 2009

Dang. There ain’t no such thing as old news.

172. Khan777 - March 16, 2009

Paramount needs to get a reality check. Paramount didn’t even own Star Trek when City on the Edge of Forever premiered. In fact Star Trek was an after thought when Paramount purchased Desi Lou Studios for a mere $17,000,000 back in 1968. Since then Star Trek is approaching a gross net worth to Paramount of 6 BILLION DOLLARS. Pony up and don’t look a gitt horse in the mouth.

173. John from Cincinnati - March 16, 2009

Why should every screenwriter that writes an episode for a tv series get additional royalties from merchandising? They already get royalties from the episodes airing, and DVD/Video sales.

Should DC Fontana sue Paramount every time a female Romulan Captain in a Klingon ship is portrayed in a book cover?

Should Robert Bloch’s heirs sue every time Jack the Ripper is mentioned in a Star Trek novel?

This is a perfect example of the frivilous litigation happy society we live in today, All this, and bailout companies are paying out billions in bonuses.

Should I sue for royalties from the movie ‘Trekkers” because they
portrayed me?

Totally ridiculous

174. THX-1138-Star Trek: Timmy! - March 16, 2009

#153

Did you continue reading or did you just stop there?

“I realize that his wasn’t exactly a pay-for-play contract but I’ll wager it’s something similar, as I stated before.”

Now, in fairness, I should probably express myself more accurately. The vast majority of contracts that episodic TV writers signed during this time period were as I described. As a matter of fact, these types of contracts are still used in many different entertainment arenas. If Ellison’s contract was different I’m certain he will make that public so as to help his case. But since this is an open discussion, I would bet, as my mama used to say, dollars to donuts that Harlan signed a contract that paid him for a script and did not include any kind of back-end or royalties. In other words, no future rights.

Hopefully that clarifies the point I was driving at. But probably not.

175. Odkin - March 16, 2009

Hypocrite Harlan, a socialist in every other political aspect, suddenly gets all capitalist when it’s HIS money.

Harlan recently helped destroy the world’s best comics blog, “Dial B for Blog” by threatening to sue the poor writer for posting an overview of a comic that Harlan wrote. Within a few months the guy gave up the blog. There are hundreds of examples of this miscreant midget bullying “ordinary” people.

Another hypocrite example – Harlan has spent years bitching that his script was ruined and rewritten beyond recognition. Now that he smells money, that episide is suddenly his special baby.

If this goes to court, I hope someone hauls out Harlans P.O.S. “Edge of Forever” original script, compares it to the MASSIVE corrections and re-writing done by Roddenberry, Fontana, etc, and decides forever and permanently that it wasn’t Harlan’s vision at all that made it to the screen, and that he deserves NOTHING except the work-made-for-hire $s he got in 1968.

176. Chris H - March 16, 2009

45: ‘Every single thing he has written apart from City is complete self-masturbatory crap.’

I still have a t-shirt on which Harlan wrote ‘I am a worthless peice of pig offal’ 25 years ago. (I managed to piss him off – no hard task). So you might be correct but am now wondering if I should put it up on Ebay. LOL.

177. Tom Thumb - March 16, 2009

For the people who think they’re qualified to determine this on some kind of vague, moral grounds – the Writers Guild rules that were in effect when Ellison wrote City On The Edge Of Forever were clear and simple – you have the right to a piece of the returns generated by the use of any characters you create in your work for hire. Some nitwit asked, “Does Gene Coon’s estate have an equal right to claim royalties from his work on “Space Seed” and the character of Khan Noonien Singh? ” The answer is, emphatically, yes. You, as a non-writer, non-WGA member, and non-involved party, do not have enough information to make a determination.

It has nothing to do with being happy with the finished product. It has nothing to do with the personality of the man bringing the suit or what you think of him. It has everything to do with a contract that was in place when the deal was made. Any idiot can come onto a message board like this and break ignorant wind, but if you don’t know what you’re talking about, it would behoove you to shut up and listen.

178. ss - March 16, 2009

Tom Thumb = Harlan Ellison

179. Spock's Brain - March 16, 2009

165. richpit – March 16, 2009
“It was an OK episode and the “Guardian” was an OK “character”. Trek would still be what it is now if the ep had never happened. I’d assume he got paid whatever scale writers got paid back then for writing a screenplay. Get over it, cranky!”

I own an Edith Keeler doll. Never taken it out of the box. I read the original screenplay for the episode as a kid. The premise and the characters he created for that episode have endured and allowed Paramount and OTHER writers to financially benefit from Ellison’s work for 40 years. Harlan is a hard guy to like, but you can’t deny his talent. He’s only asking to be fairly compensated for his work.

180. Chris H - March 16, 2009

156: ‘Anyone else remember when Harlan Ellison was a writer? Those were good times.’

I still adore his ‘An Edge In My Voice’ collection of columns. Gutsy, ballsy and taught this then much younger guy a lot about the system and how to rage against the machine.

181. Tom Thumb - March 16, 2009

178: No, I’m just a working writer, which is more than most of the people offering their opinions can say.

182. Frank - March 16, 2009

Yet another example of two things being equally true….

Harlan is a gifted writer.

and

Harlen is a petulant, pompous ass.

Will he get anything? Only if Paramount want to shut him up for a couple of years. Otherwise, not a penny.

183. krikzil - March 16, 2009

“This is even more stupid than a woman suing McDonalds for not putting “hot” on hot coffee. ”

She prevailed in her suit because the coffee was TOO hot, i.e. served at a dangerously scalding temp, not because there was no label on the cup. She ended up with 3rd degree burns over 6% of her body. She tried to settle for $20K but McD’s refused so she sued. Turns out over 700 folks over a 10 year period had been scalded by the coffee so McD’s was fully aware of the problem and hence they lost. Her reward was reduced 20% to take into account her part in it — i.e., placing it between her legs to add the cream and sugar but she ended up with almost $3M, the amount of 2 days’ coffee sales.

It pays to check the facts beyond the media hype. Harlan is a very smart man so I’m betting he has merit or he wouldn’t have bothered. Given his stature, his contract probably did give him rights beyond what was normal for a staff writer.

184. Mark Smith - March 16, 2009

Ellison was always overrated. He’s a washed-up has-been who lives off the graces of others and is always looking for someone to sue. He can’t write anything that sells any longer — he’s no better than a patent troll.

He’s just looking for Paramount to pay extortion to stay out of court. For a so-called writer to expect to live forever off residuals from one script, which was heavily rewritten, shows his true egomanic leanings.

185. Andy - March 16, 2009

I love this man’s brutal honesty. Paramount and the other big companies bring in billions of dollars every year. It should be a simple “yes we’ll pay you” and leave it at that. I hate how writers are always crapped on. If it weren’t for writers you wouldn’t have theater, film or television. Period. Who gives a shit about the actors, sure they’re great for publicity and for the latest fashion trend of People magazine but it’s the writers that put the words in their mouth. That write the intelligent things the actors say. And it’s high time these companies get it through their heads.

186. Chris H - March 16, 2009

165: ‘The guy needs to get over himself. It was an OK episode and the “Guardian” was an OK “character”. ‘

Not for me; City remains the benchmark episode of TOS, ever since I first saw it 37 or so years ago at the age of 9. ‘OK’ does not do it anything like justice, and it still brings tears to my eyes 37 years later. If you’ve not yet had the tragic misfortune to lose the love of your life then you probably can’t understand how much City resonates with me.

As for the Guardian being ‘OK’ then you miss it completely; the Guardian’s presence and continuing existence in the Trek universe – something so massively alien but emotionally and technologically overwhelming (a bit like the spooky shiver up my spine that the Krell gave me in Forbidden Planet) impressed this 9 yr old then and still does today.

187. krikzil - March 16, 2009

http://www.variety.com/article/VR1118001255.html?categoryid=13&cs=1&nid=2562

188. LOUIS - March 16, 2009

ANYBODY ELSE NOTICE THAT THE CBS TV CLASSICS SITE REMOVED “CITY ON THE EDGE OF FOREVER” FROM FREE VIEWING? MAKES YOU WONDER!

189. Kev-1 - March 16, 2009

Not knowing what his contract says it’s hard to be definitive on this issue. But I find the level of vitriol directed at him surprising. If he’s all about the money, so is Paramount. The studio intensely focus-grouped this new movie to produce maximum cash. In fact, so many comments on this board speak of trek as a “franchise” and how it must go mainstream that the place takes on the aura of Paramount’s marketing department. This sure ain’t the 70’s. Gotta stop the rant. If he’s owed money, I hope he gets it.

190. Chris H - March 16, 2009

177: Hi David x

191. MC1 Doug (formerly Doug from Afghanistan) - March 16, 2009

#152: Actually we have seen the Guardian in a subseqent episode, ST:TAS’s “Yesteryear.”

If you include ST: The New Voyages, we also saw both the Guardian and a super Guardian.

Yeah, yeah, some will say neither is canon (to which I disagee).

192. Odkin - March 16, 2009

The problem with “yes we’ll pay you” as a response is that Harlan isn’t the only writer in the world, and that you are in no position to judge his contract. He SHOULD get paid what he is entitled to under his contract.

HOWEVER it is extremely unlikely that a 40-year old freelancer contract to write a single TV episode bestowed any perpetual ownership rights. Hell, Roddenberry screwed Courage out of half the theme money, do you think he’d have found Ellison SO valuable that he would have given him a piece of the action forever?

Again, Ellisons unprofessionalism, lateness, and refusal to follow direction are WELL DOCUMENTED. He was nearly fired for breach of contract, and was obviously never used again. It was NOT his script that was produced, as Ellison has stated himself so many times.

Even if Ellison was a decent human being, “yes we’ll pay you” is not the answer when there is a legitimate dispute. Unfortunately, there are people even worse than Ellison around, and they would be lining up in droves to extort any company so willing to bend over.

193. Spock's Brain - March 16, 2009

188. LOUIS –

You’re so WRONG. It’s available at both CBS and Fancast.

CBS.com: http://www.cbs.com/classics/star_trek/video/video.php?cid=619493214&pid=rVyCAFk6g9FO__Lrts_I_aqfY_MN4rJM

Fancast: http://www.fancast.com/tv/Star-Trek/96413/620129835/Star-Trek%3A—The-City-on-the-Edge-of-Forever/videos

194. redbellpeppers - March 16, 2009

Hey Ellison- you got paid already. Go write something else.
This is a prime example of what is wrong with the whole Union/ residules thing that the writers went on strike about.

195. Tom Thumb - March 16, 2009

192 – Odkin,

“HOWEVER it is extremely unlikely that a 40-year old freelancer contract to write a single TV episode bestowed any perpetual ownership rights.”

This is why it’s pointless to have these discussions, because most people who are eager to opine on the internet have no idea what they’re talking about. This is a factual matter, so for you to post something without having the facts is just pointless. It isn’t about Ellison’s freelance contract. It’s about the Writers Guild’s MBA, which governs these things. The MBA that was in effect at the time guarantees certain rights to all writers, including Ellison. And one of those rights is to a piece of the action derived from characters he created on the show.

Does it ever occur to you to inform yourself first? What you think is likely or unlikely doesn’t matter to anyone. All that matters is what the facts are, and you do not know them.

196. neonknights - March 16, 2009

The short, talented, but arrogant and agressive Herbert Rosoff character played by Armin Shimerman in “Far Beyond the Stars” was an intended spoof of Ellison from the Star Trek staff.

197. ML31 - March 16, 2009

Ellison should only get what he is contractually obliged to get. And nothing else. If his deal says he should get payments from future use of his story, then pay him. If it doesn’t, then he shouldn’t get a damn thing and he should be angry at himself for accepting the deal and for the nimrods who worked the deal out for him.

198. Balok - March 16, 2009

Although the re-writes that DC made to his story made it greatly improved (IMHO)… I like the guy’s fiesty attitude, go Harlan!

199. Daoud - March 16, 2009

An interesting question if it ends up in court… has Ellison “retained” his rights to the character Sister Edith Keeler, and the “technology” of the Guardian(s) of Forever by *using* them?

I seem to recall that Desilu did that to allow him to use the same ideas and concept in other writings. As far as I know, he’s never used those same ideas and stories and written other Guardians stories, or revisited the time-changing Sister Edith Keeler.

He’d have much better standing if he’d re-used the character and the technology of the Guardians.

Similarity here to Larry Niven’s Kzinti in TAS “Slaver Weapon”. Clearly the Kzinti have been avoided in all other Trek (unfortunately!!) for similar reasons.

The Guardian’s only been used once, as mentioned TAS “Yesteryear”. And my understanding is that happened only because I don’t believe that Harlan has ever dissed Dorothy Fontana. She seems to be the only one who can soothe the savage beast, so to speak….

IF I WERE JJ…. I would insert a title slide thanking Fontana, Coon, Justman, others and even Ellison for their contributions to making Star Trek our modern shared mythology…. One way for Paramount to buy (literally) Harlan off would be to have JJ hire him as a consultant for Bad Robot….

I can’t blame Harlan for wanting a piece of the action….

200. THX-1138-The Horn Xpressionist - March 16, 2009

Tom Thumb

What are you getting so offended about? It’s not your money in question here, is it?

Or maybe it is!

Anyway, this IS a discussion Talk Back. And that’s sort of what happens here, for better or worse. Opinions are like…………………….
internet accounts. We all have one. It just seems strange that this hasn’t been resolved yet. Not to say Harlan is wrong or making this up just for some well timed publicity. Just offering some different ideas on what we all think. So, I do apologize if I, or any of the other people posting here have offended you with an inaccurate view. But it is our right as the nitwits.

Have a great day, Mr. Ellison….er….Tom Thumb!

201. RedShirtWalking - March 16, 2009

176: If you do put that shirt up to sell on Ebay, Ellison might sue you for a percentage of the sale price to get what’s due him. LOL

202. krikzil - March 16, 2009

Studios are notorious for not paying what’s owed to artists — writers, directors, producers, actors, etc. How many times does an actor have to sue for royalties because the studio claims there was no profit due to their creative accounting? (Just to get them to open their books many time.)

203. Brett Campbell - March 16, 2009

I can’t remember the last time that I felt a very recent news report grow so old so quickly.

I love Harlan, but …

204. Trek Nerd Central - March 16, 2009

#189. Well said.

With very few exceptions, writers get paid squat.

If Ellison’s entitled to more than he’s received, who could blame him for making demands? His language is more colorful than mine, but I see his point of view. He deserves what he’s owed.

Would people come down on the inventor of software that went on to make piles of money for 42 years?

I’ll say it again: writers get paid squat.

205. Chris H - March 16, 2009

200: ‘So, I do apologize if I, or any of the other people posting here have offended you with an inaccurate view. But it is our right as the nitwits.’

That reminds me of something Harlan wrote a few decades ago; I paraphrase but it was along the lines of ‘No one has the right to voice their opinion; they only have the right to voice their informed opinion’.

I’ve agreed with that for many many years.

206. Chris H - March 16, 2009

201: His wife is a personal friend of mine so I’ll call in a favour to prevent that. (I hope).

207. Jeyl - March 16, 2009

Sorry guys, he lost me at “Everybody else maybe an a**hole, but I’m not”.

So any artist, writer or talent who gives an interview and talks about their work is an a**hole if they don’t ask for money up front. I guess the next time I chat with Joss Whedon, Ron D. Moore, Ridley Scott, and Glen Close that they’re being a**holes for not asking for money for me to chat with them.

Is it me, or does this world seem to be tolerating rude people as the years go by?

208. Mike S - March 16, 2009

It’s hard for me to feel sorry for Harlan in this case. I’ve read quite a few accounts where Harlan worked on this story for months and couldn’t produce. In one account (sorry I don’t have the book to reference here) one of the producers gave him an office to work in at the studio, where Harlan insisted on playing rock and roll music looud, disturbing everyone else in the office. When the producer went in to talk with Harlan about it, he had slipped out the window and disappeared for the rest of the day. Finally, he turned in a script that couldn’t be filmed in the budget they had and in one episode. So, they had to rewrite what was essentially a story into a real script.

If Harlan had actually done what he signed up for I’d feel more sorry for him, but personally, it looks like he needs to pay everyone who worked to make his story even filmable, rather than stand there holding out his hand some 40 years later. David Gerrold wrote every word of the Trouble with Tribbles (well, except for the joke at the end) and you don’t hear him whining whenever someone says Tribble. I suspect he’s quite proud of how loved his work is, as Harlan would be if he actually finished that work.

Now, someone who should sue is Alexander Courage, who wrote the Star Trek theme. I read that, after the fact, Roddenberry wrote some words to it and got half the royalities from it. (See (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theme_from_Star_Trek.) If the words came first, it would have been different. If the words made the theme better, it would have been understandable. But, and lets see a show of hands, how many people even know what those words are, let alone that they exist.

209. Commodore Lurker - March 16, 2009

Go get’em Harlen! }:-D>

210. John from Cincinnati - March 16, 2009

Every writer should know, when you are creating a story for episodic television, you are giving the studio your characters, settings, plot etc. Hence that’s why they paid you a salary in the first place, and be thankful for it, especially in this economy.

Now, if a writer wants to own everything he writes, then go start your own movie or television studio.

211. DGill - March 16, 2009

There’s a rumor going around that the energy beam that Nero fires down on Vulcan (and Earth) isn’t red matter…it’s Harlan Ellison’s rage. XP

212. No One In Particular - March 16, 2009

Harlan is an angry, bitter old man who, despite his long career as a writer of somewhat interesting sci-fi, has gone out of his way to scream and yell as loudly as he can to get as much attention as he can regarding his work on this one single episode of Star Trek of which he has hypocritically claimed full credit for it’s success and at the same time complained (to put it mildly) about how it was completely changed by the writers and producers of the series.

Can’t have it both ways, Harlan. By the way, are you still foolishly assuming there’s no God?

Psalm 14, verse 1…”The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.”

Romans 1:20 “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:”

Get right with the Man upstairs before it’s too late, Harlan.

213. John from Cincinnati - March 16, 2009

Writers are employees of the studios. Not vice versa.

From what I read, Harlan already got paid once for his story. Now he wants to get paid again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, etc.

214. Brett Campbell - March 16, 2009

208 – The lyrics Roddenberry wrote to Courage’s theme can be found at the beginnig of Stephen E. Whitfield’s book “The Making of Star Trek.” I have heard that it is now out of print, but used copies can be found on rare occasion.

You are correct that I can’t remember these lyrics at all, but they were in Whitfield’s book (at least the first edition).

215. P Technobabble - March 16, 2009

I’d like to offer my uninformed opinion, if I may.
The social structure we live in is built almost entirely around the Almighty $. What else would anyone say is a more driving force than money, and the urge to accumulate it? This is simply how it is, in my view. I do not begrudge Mr. Ellison going after money he feels is due to him, since he is simply participating in the way of the world. At the risk of getting into politics, if we all bitched about what congress is doing with OUR money the way Mr. Ellison is bitching, we might, at least, get noticed.
I have always been a huge fan of Mr. Ellison. He is one of the most awarded writers in America, and he is the only fiction writer to ever bring tears to my eyes with his words — which means something to me. Of course, I’ve always known he is an outspoken individual, and I often thinks he makes a lot of sense. I do not know the man, and I’d bet if I met him in a bar he wouldn’t be interested in having a conversation with me. This lawsuit does not alter my feeling about him one way or the other. I’ve heard, and read about, the “City” saga, so I know at least as much as everyone else could know. If the details of his contract imply that he should be compensated, then he should be, because that’s the way it works. If the contract works against him receiving compensation, ob-la-di, ob-la-da, life goes on, bra. But, as so often happens in these boards, some contributors have to turn it into a high-school brawl, and resort to the usual name-calling, etc. Whether you like Ellison or not, NO ONE deserves that kind of treatment, and if we don’t all somehow come to recognize this, then all this Star Trek/vision of hope/optimism of the future is a load of bullshit and we are doomed.
There, I said it.

216. Brett Campbell - March 16, 2009

This at least keeps Harlan in the public eye. I hate to say it, as I have been a long-time fan of his, but, IMHO, he hasn’t really produced any fiction or teleplay of any real quality in over a decade — certainly nothing on a par with his work from the ’60s, ’70s or even the ’80s.

Sorry, but that’s how I see it. Again, just MHO.

217. krikzil - March 16, 2009

212– Please let’s leave religion out of it. He’s entitled, just as you are, to believe as he sees fit. It’s got nada to do with suing CBS.

218. Chris H - March 16, 2009

212: Please leave the God thing out of here.

219. Plum - March 16, 2009

Go Harlen! :)

Pay the frakin’ writer… truth!

220. krikzil - March 16, 2009

Heh maybe if Orci is around he can weigh in….not on this particular suit but royalties in general and how it works.

221. screaming satellite - March 16, 2009

Harlan and chjristian bale should hook up – and do some serious damage to peoples ears

222. David Gerrold - March 16, 2009

The Writers Guild and the studios have contracts that specifically describe what profit participation writers are entitled to. These residual agreements have been evolving since the Guild started, to include all forms of additional licensing and merchandising that have developed — videotapes, DVDs, the Internet, books and toys, whatever else you can think of.

Unfortunately, the WGAW has not been as aggressive as it could have been in policing these residual agreements. Harlan Ellison’s complaint is based on the fact that there has been merchandising of characters he created (Edith Keeler, the Guardian of Forever, etc.) without fair payment as specifically described in the Guild/Studio agreements.

Harlan Ellison isn’t the only writer who is affected by this. Other Star Trek writers like DC Fontana (who wrote more episodes of the original series than anyone else and who created the characters of Sarek and Amanda) will also benefit. It is also likely that writers who worked on other series will benefit from the precedent.

Essentially, this is akin to Warner Brothers making a movie of Superman without ever paying a nickel to the creators of the character, Siegel and Schuster — eventually the studio had to be shamed into paying them. Many of the writers of shows from television’s golden era are not receiving residuals for shows that have earned hundreds of millions of dollars for the studios, simply because those existing contracts didn’t envision the home video or internet phenomena.

Here’s an example a little closer to home. The scriptwriters of the DS9 episode “Trials and Tribble-ations” will receive residuals in perpetuity every time that episode earns money. The scriptwriter who created the tribbles receives nothing for that reuse of his work. Is this fair? If you go by the letter of the contract, it’s legal. But fair? You decide.

While I appreciate that everybody has an opinion on this, what’s really happening here is that the contracts of the Writers Guild have not kept up with the changing technology of entertainment delivery. Harlan Ellison’s lawsuit is a direct challenge to the status quo, but it is also a declaration that those who toil in the factories of Hollywood should be allowed to enjoy the fruits of their labors.

As the bible says, “Don’t bind the mouth of the mule who treads out the grain.”

223. Will_H - March 16, 2009

I think they guy does have a case that probably should go to court, but Im not gonna say how it should turn out because god knows there’s probably a ton of other stuff about this that’s not public. I’ll say that the guy seems greedy, though, far beyond someone just wanting to be rightfully paid. But I think the courts decide. If they rule in his favor, Paramount should pay him and not be bitter. If they rule against him, then he needs to get over it and move on.

224. screaming satellite - March 16, 2009

the Harlan lawsuit saga issue aside…COTEOF is one of those very eerie, strange, slightly scary trek episodes that could easily be a Twilight Zone or Outer Limits…i mean if you turn the colour off so its B&W and edited in a Rod Sterling intro and Twilight Zone opening and closing credits then it could easily pass for a TZ ep…

they did that with Planet of the Apes – probably on utube somewhere…edited it down to a half hr, B&W and found a suitable sterling intro and did the credits etc and it worked real well (Rod Sterling wrote it anyway)

Spectre of the Gun and a few other season 1 eps like Charlie X, Little Girls etc would also work as TZ/OL eps…but i think COTEOF would work maybe the best along with Spectre

225. David Gerrold - March 16, 2009

Let me also say this.

A lot of people are repeating a lot of BS about Harlan Ellison, creating a mental image of him as some kind of cranky belligerent dwarf on a rampage. That’s just not true.

I know Harlan, I’ve known him for over forty years. He’s a passionate man. He gave me one of the character references I needed when I adopted my son. He’s also set a standard for writers throughout the field to aspire to. And in all the time I’ve known him, I’ve watched him continually educate himself and grow, not only as a storyteller, but also as a human being. He does not deserve one-tenth of the BS that people spread about him.

That he never hesitates to rage against stupidity and injustice should make him a superhero in this arena, not an object of disdain to the uninformed. This man has done more to elevate the science fiction field than almost anybody I can think of. He has continually demanded that writers function at their highest level, that producers use the medium to educate and challenge and inspire. He has continually demanded that all of us be the very best we can be. That he is impatient is not because he is a crank, it is because the job is so big and most of us are moving too slowly.

Some of the comments posted about Harlan tell us nothing about Harlan at all, but a great deal about the small horizons of those who have posted them.

Television is one of the most powerful means of mass-communication ever invented. It is a transformative medium that can topple governments, turn public opinion around in an instant, educate and challenge and inspire. But if all we’re doing is using it to tell people that they smell bad and need to buy some of this and some of that and a lot of the other thing, then we’re not using our tools to build palaces, we’re only pushing the dung around into different piles.

Along the way, those who work in television — the writers, the directors, the producers, the musicians, all the creative people — are entitled to be treated with respect by the studios. They are entitled to be paid a fair share out of the profits of the work they have created from their hearts, not just on a work for hire basis, but on a fair schedule of residuals and profit-participation. Because to not treat them fairly is to put the lie to all those wonderful shows they put on that talk about justice and passion and courage and fairness.

So if Don Quixote puts on his armor and rides out to challenge the windmill one more time, we shouldn’t abuse him — we should be putting on our own armor and rushing out to join him. Or (switching metaphors) we should be grabbing torches and pitchforks and storming the parapets, crying, “Hey, Paramount! Hey, CBS! These are the people who are making the shows we love! Treat them fairly so they can keep on making more shows we love!”

226. John from Cincinnati - March 16, 2009

This is what I think….

George Lucas was the writer, producer, Director and creator of Star Wars. 20th Century Fox gave him the licensing and merchandising rights. That is an exception, not the rule. It took 20th century to decide to give him those rights, he wasn’t just entitled to them.

It simply makes bad business sense if you are the CEO of a studio to give away millions of dollars to every writer that walks through the door, simply on the basis they created the characters. Isn’t that why the studio pays writers in the first place? What else are they paying them for? As great an episode ‘City on the Edge of Forever” and other episodes are, they simply wouldn’t exist if not for Gene Roddenberry’s vision and umbrella of the Star Trek universe for them to inhabit.

You have to think of a TV series as a collaberation. Every writer inputs a little bit of themselves into the series, making it a whole.

So it comes down to if the courts wants to consider writers as part owners of the material, or not. I say, if you want all the “perks” that goes along with a unique story, then write a book, finance a studio and then finance a movie or television show to get it made. What no one mentions if a show fails and the studio loses money, do the writers get billed for the losses?

227. anti-Matter - March 16, 2009

why shouldn’t people get paid for their craft? young artists: don’t sell yourself short! take what you do seriously, or other people will try to use you!

228. Charlie in Colorado - March 16, 2009

Thank you to Mr. Gerrold for adding his comments to this thread. One of the joys of trekmovie.com is getting the knowledge and perspective of “insiders” and others “in the know.”

229. Daoud - March 16, 2009

#222 David. Thank you for *everything*! Your book on Tribbles is the #1 reason I became a ‘meta-‘fan.

And thank for your ‘informed’ knowledge here too! By the way, shouldn’t Holly Sherman also deserve some royalties everytime Tribbles airs? ;)

Harlan is indeed right to proceed with the lawsuit. I just hate for JJ’s crew to get hit by the flak from it. I would think with still a month and a half left, that Bad Robot could take some initiative and push to solve this situation; and bring “everyone home” for May 8. The movie is going to do large. JJ can afford to convince Paramout to show some largesse, especially to those of you from TOS still with us.

230. screaming satellite - March 16, 2009

after watching the video again (i was laughing too hard the first time..sorry harlan you are a funny guy…not funny like a clown..just funny..you know…funny…erm…uh…) i have to say that Harlan does have a point…i mean itd make sense for paramount to distribute some of the moolah to those responsible in treks success..but then where would it end? surely everyone who worked on them would want extra fees…set people, camaramen? costumes? actors etc etc

although maybe they could bring those old contracts for the writers more in line with the current ones? – i dunno

231. John from Cincinnati - March 16, 2009

227.

No one said they shouldn’t get paid, that’s what salaries are for, but now they are saying they want to be part owners of the product. That’s what merchandising rights are. If they are part owners, then they need to share in the burden should the project fail. The studio takes all the risks, pays the bills and funds these projects, yet the writers want all the rewards.

I’m not down on writers, I think their craft is essential. But so are actors, and directors, and sound guys and special effects guys and costumers, where and when does it end. Should the grip get merchandising rights too?

232. Jeyl - March 16, 2009

@225: “Hey, Paramount! Hey, CBS! These are the people who are making the shows we love! Treat them fairly so they can keep on making more shows we love!”

But Harlan hasn’t made a single Star Trek story since that one. Even if he gets paid, why would he want to come back?

233. krikzil - March 16, 2009

Thank you Mr. Gerrold!

“The studio takes all the risks, pays the bills and funds these projects, yet the writers want all the rewards.”

John from Cincinnati — No, they simply want their fair share. And merchandising rights were a far different thing back in the 60s. It’s really not fair to discount the notion that writers (or actors, etc) are entitled to a piece of a pie they had no way of knowing would exist some 30, 40 and more years beyond. Who could have foreseen the techonological developments of videos, DVDs, CDs and the like? Why on earth should studios and records companies reap the billions? And especially when it’s a product like Star Trek that no one could have known would explode in such a manner and remain popular for so many decades with books, shows, movies, hallmark ornaments and toys ad infinitum?

234. DGill - March 16, 2009

Mr. Gerrold defended Ellison in a highly effective, highly articulate manner, but I still think he’s a jerk. Sorry. That’s just the way I see it.

235. Tom Thumb - March 16, 2009

226 – John,

“This is what I think….”

What you think is irrelevant. This isn’t a matter of casual opinion. It’s a matter of contractual labor law. Under the contract the studio had with the WGA, Paramount owes a piece of the cut to any writer whose characters they use in future endeavors. Your opinions about what makes sense and doesn’t are irrelevant, as you do not know enough to actually have an opinion.

Under the Guild rules, Paramount owes Ellison a percentage every time they use characters he created. Period. End of story.

I love how people who have no idea what the facts of the matter are feel perfectly entitled to post opinions that have no merit at all.

236. Chris H - March 16, 2009

225; David, yes and yes. Harlan made me think (as do you). Although it’s alleged that he tried to get a Glaswegian hit-squad to take me out ‘good and proper’ in ’86 – Susan convinced him otherwise – he remains what I have always perceived him to be. A rager against the machine with an edge in his voice. Why do so many people see that as wrong? The grazers and the herders – all complicit. Creativity and ideas deserve better treatment.

I do despair on here sometimes; the cranky belligerent dwarf is not HE; Jim McCarthy is not DG; the lanky gay screamer here is not CH. IDIC – well a bit twee but lets see it as what it is – seems to constantly take a back seat to anyone who has 4 cents worth, no matter how they trample over another living human being. I reiterate HE: No-one has a right to express their opinion. They only have the right to express their informed opinion.

This place unfortunately hosts as many uninformed ‘commentators’ as the rest of the net; that’s the price we pay for such a fantastic gift.

(Walks away, sits in corner and strokes tribble). (Throw’s a couple of $ into the doggy dental fund).

237. Odkin - March 16, 2009

Bravo John From Cincinnati!

It bears repeating:
“if a show fails and the studio loses money, do the writers get billed for the losses?”

Of course not. There’s something about the Union mentality that makes people think they are entitled to perpetual reward while taking zero risk.

As hinted in David Gerrold’s comments about “the status quo” and how “contracts have not kept up”, this is all retroactive application of modern “gimme mine” sensibilities to what was probably a straightforward work-made-for-hire 60’s contract with no merchandising provisions. His Siegel & Shuster analogy proves it. There was NO legal entitlement, just public threats and shaming, until DC paid the “shut up and go away” money. Ellison smells movie money and is pulling the same stunt.

If Ellison had any legal standing he would have brought lawyers and acountants to bear many years ago. This is just an opportunistic grab, at a time when the studio is at it’s most PR sensitive.

238. OtterVomit - March 16, 2009

I love Harlan Ellison. Always have, always will. He ranks right up there with Robert Heinlein for me. It is a shame that most of the younger Trek generation simply either don’t know him at all, or only know him as “that guy who wrote City on the Edge of Forever and never stopped bitching about it.” IMO Ellison has done more for Sci-Fi than anyone else in modern history including Gene Roddenberry.

Ellison’s “crankiness” only adds to my admiration of the man: partly because I find myself agreeing with him most of the time but mainly because he absolutely refuses to compromise himself and his principles without a good, long fight even if its disastrous to his public perception. He winds up winning. Always. The man has my utmost respect.

239. Check the Circuit - March 16, 2009

There have been way too many occasions where someone has signed a work for hire agreement and they’ve gotten screwed. But for the most part, the system works.

Writer X is hired to write a script for TV Show Y. The show runs for 4 years and gets cancelled. Writer gets paid. End of story. They knew what they were signing up for.

An artist is paid by the page for the work he does for Marvel Comics. If his talent drives up circulation, he gets a bonus on every book sold over a certain threshold. End of story.

Then there are times someone creates something as a work for hire assignment that takes off and becomes much larger than the parameters of the agreement. It is appalling that a couple of teenagers created Superman and have reaped little financial reward from what became an worldwide icon. Stan Lee has done pretty well for himself but he’s only gotten a fraction of the value of what is now the Marvel Universe and the Kirby estate has received even less. That’s a miscarriage of the system.

That’s not the case with Harlan. He and some other writers/producers got to be a part of the Star Trek universe, one of those rare entities that just keeps on going. And the Roddenberry’s are in pretty good shape. But Gene did the work and selling to get the show on the air. Debate it all you want, but at the beginning of every episode it says created by Gene Roddenberry. Everyone else involved should be grateful for getting to participate and getting paid to do it.

Now if Edith Keeler had been spun off into her own show…that’s a different story. (The New Adventures of Old Edith Keeler?) Or if the Guardian of Forever inspired a long-running Broadway musical, the conditions of the agreement have changed. (The Guardian of Forever Plaid?)

But Harlan’s work hasn’t been exploited like that. So the characters occasionally show up in a cartoon, niche novels or a fan production… IMHO that’s not enough to warrant a lawsuit.

So until the Guardian of Forever becomes a host for documentaries on The History Channel, Harlen is going to have to happy with the flattery of having his work continue to inspire imitation.

240. Spock's Brain - March 16, 2009

Thank you David Gerrold for presenting your informed opinion.

241. RTC - March 16, 2009

225 David Gerrold, thanks for your insights. Your post has shifted my perspective on this issue. Justice is much more than what is merely ‘legal,’ as you’ve wisely pointed out, and I hope that justice is served for Harlan, you and the other writers out there. At the same time, while you’ve made the case eloquently and rationally, Harlan’s approach — ranting, cursing, belittling others — only builds resentment while promoting the dismissive attitude he is fighting against. I can sympathize with frustration, but the volatile persona he’s presenting (be it real or feigned) isn’t going to promote dialogue and resolution.

242. Tom Thumb - March 16, 2009

237 “As hinted in David Gerrold’s comments about “the status quo” and how “contracts have not kept up”, this is all retroactive application of modern “gimme mine” sensibilities to what was probably a straightforward work-made-for-hire 60’s contract with no merchandising provisions.”

It’s already been stated clearly that this is not the case. The WGA contract in effect at that time clearly provided for the compensation Ellison is asking for. Why not address that honestly, or would it screw up your righteous indignation?

243. Odkin - March 16, 2009

Tom, I keep saying “probably”. You keep definitively stating what you cannot possibly know for a fact.

Unless you have a copy of Ellison’s contract, you are speculating.

Knowing Ellison, it makes ZERO SENSE that he has waited 40 years to enforce an agreement in writing.

It makes MORE sense that he is using current sensibilities to enfore a retroactive “fairness” that probably wasn’t there 40 years ago, like it or not.

244. Oliver Quinn - March 16, 2009

More power to ya, Harlan. All writers trying to eek out a living shoul dbe taking up the cause with him.

Good luck! I love Trek, but F Paramount.

245. John from Cincinnati - March 16, 2009

233..

“Why on earth should studios and records companies reap the billions?”

Because, the answer is very simple. Those companies took the risk of putting their capital in a project, which you characterized so well in your own words “And especially when it’s a product like Star Trek that no one could have known would explode in such a manner and remain popular for so many decades with books, shows, movies, hallmark ornaments and toys ad infinitum?”

It’s called making an investment. You see how it works is, the studios are a business, and businesses exist to make money, employ people etc. The entertainment industry exists to entertain and make money. Without the making money part, there would’ve been no Desilu studios, or NBC or television sets to watch our beloved Star Trek. Someone has to pay the bills.

Can anyone here give me an example elsewhere in this world where a part owner of a company can only profit when times are good, but never lose anything when they go bad? (And no, you can’t use the bailout as an example. We’re ALL paying for that one). If writers want their “fair share” fine, give it to them, and don’t come crying when their show or movie flops and the studio loses millions and they get a bill in the mail.

246. Tom Thumb - March 16, 2009

243 – “Tom, I keep saying “probably”. You keep definitively stating what you cannot possibly know for a fact.”

You’re wrong. Read my posts, and read the information released about the case. You obviously haven’t, because:

“Unless you have a copy of Ellison’s contract, you are speculating.”

That you think this is about Ellison’s contract proves you haven’t even bothered to read the available information before pontificating. It isn’t about his contract. It’s about the Writers Guild agreement that was in effect when he did the work.

“Knowing Ellison, it makes ZERO SENSE that he has waited 40 years to enforce an agreement in writing.”

He’s made it very clear in the press release what the situation is, and why it’s happening now. Since this information is all easily available, why don’t you take the time to familiarize yourself with it, then come back here and offer an informed opinion? That would be a nice change of pace.

This isn’t about Ellison’s contract with Star Trek. It’s about the WGA rules that were in effect when he signed that contract. The studio he did the work for was a WGA signatory, and, thus, was legally bound to abide by those rules.

247. Tom Thumb - March 16, 2009

245. John – “It’s called making an investment. ”

Your lack of respect for the people who create the work that obviously means so much to you is palpable. You see the money a studio puts up as an investment, but not the work the creators put in. You have no problem with Paramount reaping billions from this investment, but you begrudge the actual creators of the work a piece of the pie. You respect money more than creativity, even though it’s the creativity that brings you to a site like this.

248. Spock's Brain - March 16, 2009

226. John from Cincinnati – March 16, 2009

John from Cincinnati, stop posting, because the more you post the more you reveal your limited knowledge and understanding of the complexities of creative enterprises like television and filmmaking (and you embarrass other Buckeyes). Great art endures and can keep on giving, even after its creator is gone.

It’s not a business like the one where you hire a guy to make donuts. The grip, director, actor, producers, everyone on the set would NOT be there without the writer. It ALL begins with THE WRITER.

249. Tuvokster1701 - March 16, 2009

My opinion this guy is an unmitigated jerk. A money hungry person he says it himself “If they play nice and tug their forelock and acknowledge where the material came from and pay me a trailer-truck full of cash, I will not sue them in Federal District Court…”
He not only wants some money but trailer full.
Id like to set my phaser to a higher setting then stun

250. THX-1138-Star Trek: Timmy! - March 16, 2009

Just a different perspective in response to what some have said about artists (writers, actors, musicians, dancers, etc.) and their financial rights:

It is a narrow line to walk when one is not of the stature of some of the more public figures in regards to how well they are compensated. On the one hand if you ask too little and accept a smaller sum for payment you are more than likely going to find steady work but will be doing a disservice to your peers. The “payment bar” will be set lower. If you ask for too much you may reap higher pay per job and may set a precedent for others in your craft when it comes time to negotiate but you may find that you are working less and less. So the balance is where does one draw that line? A guy has to eat, and not all of us make millions of dollars.

251. Anthony Pascale - March 16, 2009

ok guys, I know that Harlan is provocative and therefore it is not surprising for reactions to get heated. However, I ask everyone to remain civil, even to Mr. Ellison himself (even if he isn’t always civil himself).

252. Nivenus - March 16, 2009

Though I’m an aspiring writer I have to agree that Harlan’s pushing the line here. Seriously. It’s not an original work. By that logic every screenwriter who’s ever worked on Star Trek should be on the gravy train for life. It’s not that simple.

I’m all for protecting writers’ rights to their own work. I think it’s a damn shame that people like Whedon and JMS have to sell the rights to their own creations in order to get a job in Hollywood. But that doesn’t mean every writer that ever works on anything gets a piece of the pie. Not in my book.

And I highly doubt merchandise licensing fees were provided for in the contract for “City on the Edge of Forever.”

253. krikzil - March 16, 2009

John/#245– Hmm…the studios are in business and taking risks are inherent in any business. But just because they open the doors for business does not mean that they or record companies should be entitled to profit from things in perpetuity — especially when no one could have forseen new mediums or properties that become popular beyond the norm or fail to honor an existing contract — in this case what is contained in the WGA contracts.

And it’s not like it’s sudden. He went to the WGA on multiple occasions over this dispute and they failed to do anything. The amount writers get is miniscule residual-wise in comparison to the portion of the pie the studios get anyway.

Out of curiousity….are you saying that Leonard Nimoy was wrong to have sued Paramount for the merchandising roylties owed him? Peggy Lee for suing Disney over video rights and the use of her voice? And countless actors, producers, singers, songwriters, writers, directors, etc have had to sue to get the studios and record companies to get the monies owed or even to get a look AT the books.

254. Tom Thumb - March 16, 2009

252 Nivenus,

“And I highly doubt merchandise licensing fees were provided for in the contract for “City on the Edge of Forever.””

Again and again and again I keep telling people, and you keep ignoring it. The WGA contract that was in effect when Ellison made his deal did, in fact, provide for those fees, no matter how much you doubt it. You cannot deny facts. If you want to post an opinion on this matter, have the decency to know what you’re talking about first. Why is that so hard to understand?

I love how people who are so powerfully moved by the creations of artists think it’s fine for a large corporation to profit forever from that work, but shabby for the creators to do so.

255. Balok - March 16, 2009

Anyone remember a guy named Bud Abbott? My kids love to watch Abbott and Costello movies. I tell my kids they they were more popular in their day than any of today’s actors like Jim Carey. The studios made a shitload of money on these guys, from what I recall that didn’t get much.

And Bud died in retirement home, broke. One of his last public pleas before passing on was that his long time followers send him a little money to get by (because the studio made all money on his years of work) … pretty damn sad…

Go Harlan, go!

256. John from Cincinnati - March 16, 2009

247.

I don’t recall “begrudging” anybody. If anyone is bedrudging anyone it is you against me.

Like I said, people signed contracts and agreed to write a script and accepted a paycheck back then. When $$$ appear, people behave irrationally. How much do you think Willie Mays made in 1956? Do you think it was worth what he could’ve made today? Do you think Willie Mays should sue the Giants for what he can make today? That’s insane.

These so called billions you talk about the studios making, how much do you think it costs to run a movie studio. Well here’s a clue, ST09 cost $150,000,000 to make. Who do you think put up the money to get it made? Who will lose money should the movie bomb? So these so called “billions” you keep mentioning, who does it go to? It’s goes to all the employees of the studio, it goes towards funding more movies and television shows.

This concept of economics and business seems to elude you.

257. screaming satellite - March 16, 2009

is Tom Thumb really Harlan himself? i hope he dosnt get too offended by some of my posts i made…i was just havin some foolin about having fun harlan! please dont shout at me…i bought your COTEOF book…it was good!

258. Lendorien - March 16, 2009

Ellison is a nasty guy.

If he can prove he’s owed royalties based on his contract. He should get them. I strongly believe that. And shame on Paramount if they’re violating that contract.

But gosh am I tired of his birching. It never ends with that guy.

259. John from Cincinnati - March 16, 2009

First, I never belittle people on this site simply because I don’t agree with them, unlike a lot of children here that do.

Second, the argument of legality versus fairness was brought up. Well, what’s unfair to me is seeing a little child die of cancer or seeing a family evicted from their home because they were victims to predatory creditors. To me, that is unfair, not some Hollywood scriptwriter crying about getting more millions of dollars.

If it was in his contract, he should get it, plain and simple. If not, then no.

260. krikzil - March 16, 2009

“This concept of economics and business seems to elude you.”

Uh, it’s you that doesn’t seem to understand the nature of the movie biz luv.

Paramount has in fact made BILLIONS off of Star Trek. That is fact.

261. Tom Thumb - March 16, 2009

256. John – “Like I said, people signed contracts and agreed to write a script and accepted a paycheck back then.”

Are you actually reading my posts? I’ve explained at least half a dozen times now that, in fact, the contract that was in effect back then guaranteed Ellison – and every writer in that situation – a piece of the profits from any characters they created. You keep acting like this is not the case, but it is. Your entire argument is based on the fact that you refuse to acknowledge this simple fact. You’re wrong.

262. RW - March 16, 2009

Why is it that people call other people who stick up for their rights against conglomerates “whiny bitches” ? The individuals usually have neither the power or resources to win lawsuits against the rich and powerful. This is why the rich and powerful continually try to rip off people. Look at what the banks did to everyone, the cigarette companies denying for decades that cigarettes did nothing bad to your health, large companies causing cancer in cities across America polluting drinking water or dumping toxic waste. Thank your lucky stars their are individuals who don’t sit on their asses like most of us and fight to protect your rights as well as their own.

263. steve623 - March 16, 2009

The man never ceases to entertain.

Go get ‘em, Harlan!

264. Jack - March 16, 2009

Remember the reference to him in MST3K #512, “Mitchell?”

The robots notice an extra who looks exactly like Harlan Ellison getting booked at a police station.

One points him out and says: “They arrested Harlan Ellison!”

The other adds: “Good.”

265. NoRez - March 16, 2009

238 (and others): WORD.

Let the court decide, and may Harlan keep fighting his good fights for years to come. And to those who have only just met him, trust the fans, there’s a lot more to him than fighting and bitching.

266. Chris H - March 16, 2009

258: Ellison is a nasty guy.

You ever met him?

267. Tommy Servo - March 16, 2009

261 – is the WGA agreement that was in place in 1966 available on-line? Where would someone find it? I would be very interested in reading it.

268. Daoud - March 16, 2009

Hey, if Dennis Bailey’s around this thread still, since he did “Tin Man” in the TNG era…. are residuals there for it every time it re-runs and do they keep coming in? Who at CBS keeps up with that and sends the checks?

269. The Ellisonator - March 16, 2009

Ellison is a tiresome hack! F him and his overrated episode of Star Trek!

He makes me wanna barf with his constant whining and complaining!

270. krikzil (aka Lixy) - March 16, 2009

“Why is it that people call other people who stick up for their rights against conglomerates “whiny bitches” ? The individuals usually have neither the power or resources to win lawsuits against the rich and powerful. This is why the rich and powerful continually try to rip off people.”

At one time the studios called ALL the shots…back in the day of the moguls like Meyer, etc. That’s why we now have SAG, WGA, AFTRA and all the rest of the Unions — to police and enforce the rights of artists cause the studios certainly aren’t going to. Heck, they have be to sued even with the contracts in place! And please look up the residual rates — very few are getting rich. Harlan Ellison is outspoken, yes, but that makes him the perfect person to fight this fight.

271. The Ellisonator - March 16, 2009

David Gerrold says —

“Is this fair? If you go by the letter of the contract, it’s legal. But fair? You decide.”

Yes! It’s fair! Contracts are binding agreements. You (people who sign them) knew what you were signing.

It’s pretty lame to come back years later claiming royalties after you agreed to something and signed your (the signee) name to it.

272. Spotts1701 - March 16, 2009

261. “I’ve explained at least half a dozen times now that, in fact, the contract that was in effect back then guaranteed Ellison – and every writer in that situation – a piece of the profits from any characters they created.”

I see your point, but isn’t there also a collision there with how much modification was done to both Edith Keeler and the Guardian of Forever when compared with the original versions in Ellison’s script drafts?

273. Simon - March 16, 2009

Valtrex must be pretty expensive.

274. Publius - March 16, 2009

Roddenberry wasn’t satisfied with changing the premise of Ellison’s story from the moral dilemma Kirk faced and the Guardians’ (read “God”) eternally torturing a corrupt character (not a series regular) for his one good deed (saving Edith Keeler) into a justification for interference with saving a life in the name of a larger good.

If you watch the episode carefully, you’ll see that Spock had no chance to record the unaltered version of Edith Keeler’s history before McCoy changed it. Spock couldn’t have been so certain about the need for Edith Keeler to die, since he couldn’t have had the unaltered time line to compare with the altered one. The choice they faced was much more difficult.

As moral paradoxes go, Ellison’s were much more complex, both at the human and Godly level. It’s not surprising that Kirk felt repugnance – “Let’s get the hell out of here” – over what he had had to do at the end of the story.

Roddenberry felt the need to justify all this watering down by making up lies about Ellison’s script, including publicly falsely accusing Ellison of turning Scotty into a drug dealer.

So if Ellison has legal grounds for this suit in the Writers Guild’s master contract – and from Variety’s news story linked to above, he may – he should say “Full speed ahead, and damn the photon torpedoes!”

275. starfall42 - March 16, 2009

Which is a good point. The Guardian on the Hallmark ornament, for example, looks nothing like Ellison’s description of the Guardians.

276. Gary Evans - March 16, 2009

@David Gerrold:
Hey, man, thanks for your perspective. I know little about the Writers’ Guild, but I do know that back in the late 1980s that the Directors’ Guild, SAG and ASCAP both began buying information regarding programming and syndication on TV. They were seeking to ensure that their members were getting the residuals to which they were entitled.

It was estimated at that time that many programming episodes were being shown without any guarantee of payment.

I firmly believe that if someone created these things under a contract that ALL parties should live up to that contract.

Whether or not Mr Ellison is right or wrong is up to the courts (and perhaps a civil jury one day) to make a determination. I am rather surprised he waited for so many years to take this action, but that is his perogative IMO.

@ Anthony Pascale
Anthony, glad to see you still try to police these commentaries as much as possible. Difficult at best. Kudos for the effort to keep this civil.

277. Tom Thumb - March 16, 2009

272 – “I see your point, but isn’t there also a collision there with how much modification was done to both Edith Keeler and the Guardian of Forever when compared with the original versions in Ellison’s script drafts?”

No. It’s irrelevant, even if it’s true. Ellison is the credited writer, and as such, is guaranteed certain rights and provisions, regardless of whether or not, forty years later, some fanboys think his script was rewritten significantly.

275. “The Guardian on the Hallmark ornament, for example, looks nothing like Ellison’s description of the Guardians.”

He created the CHARACTER. How that character was cast or designed is irrelevant.

278. Chris Basken - March 16, 2009

261: “I’ve explained at least half a dozen times now that, in fact, the contract that was in effect back then guaranteed Ellison – and every writer in that situation – a piece of the profits from any characters they created.”

Do you have any kind of citation for this?

279. Spotts1701 - March 16, 2009

276. “Ellison is the credited writer, and as such, is guaranteed certain rights and provisions, regardless of whether or not, forty years later, some fanboys think his script was rewritten significantly.”

Except it was heavily rewritten – that’s fact, confirmed by credible sources and by Ellison’s own production of his original scripts for the episode.

And then that brings up another question – if he’s guaranteed certain rights and provisions, how does that apply to the Crucible trilogy without running afoul of the claim that the Crucible trilogy is a “derivative work”?

I’m not trying to be pedantic – I’m curious coming at it from another aspect of the law. I’ll admit to not knowing as much about labor law (specifically WGA contacts vis-a-vis the studios) as you do.

280. S. John Ross - March 16, 2009

#279: “Except it was heavily rewritten – that’s fact, confirmed by credible sources and by Ellison’s own production of his original scripts for the episode.”

It’s also a fact that Windhoek is the capital of Namibia.

The question is: are either of these facts alluded to, mentioned, or assigned any sort of dependent relationship in Harlan’s contract?

Because if not, both facts are equally irrelevant.

It’s all about the paperwork and – if need be – the interpretation of any holes in the clauses, unclear terms, etc.

It’s all about that, and only that. Period.

281. Tom Thumb - March 16, 2009

276 “Except it was heavily rewritten – that’s fact, confirmed by credible sources and by Ellison’s own production of his original scripts for the episode.”

Pay attention: It is absolutely irrelevant if the truth is that Ellison’s pet mongoose really wrote the script and was then rewritten by Gene Roddenberry’s gardener. This is a straight forward contractual issue. Harlan Ellison is the writer of credit, and as such – regardless of any innuendo, hearsay or rumor you may wish to bring into it – is due certain monies.

282. Spotts1701 - March 16, 2009

280. “It’s all about the paperwork and – if need be – the interpretation of any holes in the clauses, unclear terms, etc.

It’s all about that, and only that. Period.”

No,because then the argument becomes one of “substantial use” – do any of the future works that reference Ellison’s original material use enough of it that it rises to the level of requiring a payout under the terms of the contract (assuming, for the sake of this argument, that such a clause is not only in existence but is valid)?

Take the Crucible trilogy – while the framing story surrounds the events of COTEOF, it seems like there is not enough of the elements that Ellison claims are “his” for him to have a valid claim. In addition, Simon and Schuster can raise a defense of “derivative work” – which has been successful in the past in similar claims.

283. Spotts1701 - March 16, 2009

281. “Pay attention: ”

I have been very polite to you, sir. Please do not condescend to me. I find it insulting and rude, and it really does not being anything of value to the conversation.

As well-versed as you are in your area of expertise, you have to consider that there are other aspects that will come into play beyond the bare terms of the contract. As someone who has taken Contract Law, I feel confident in saying that just because a contract says “if X event occurs, then Y outcome” does not mean that it will be interpreted that way when brought into a courtroom.

284. Tom Thumb - March 16, 2009

283. “I have been very polite to you, sir. Please do not condescend to me. I find it insulting and rude, and it really does not being anything of value to the conversation.”

Neither does people with absolutely NO information offering their legal opinions. Whether or not the script was rewritten or shot exactly as Ellison handed over does not matter. He is the screenwriter of legal record, and as such, his benefits and rights are clearly delineated in the WGA MBA, which Desilu was a signatory to. You are not a member of the WGA, nor do you have any experience in these matters. Any member of the Guild will be happy to clarify these things for you, but for you to pontificate on this matter without actually knowing what you’re talking about is far more insulting to the professionals reading this than anything I’ve said to you.

285. Capes - March 16, 2009

Back in the early 90s, Ellison offered a signed, leather bound, limited edition of his original script and subsequent rewrites. Being a huge fan I bought it for $75. I was eager to get it in the mail. When I received it, there was a note from him putting down anyone foolish enough to spend this much money on this book. I was soured on him from that point on.

Good read in spite of that, but it still leaves a bad taste when I think about it. If anyone wants it, make me an offer….

jcapes@triad.rr.com

286. freezejeans - March 16, 2009

Crikey. David Gerrold himself is posting in here! I used to love his Trek updates in Starlog back in the 70’s. This is awesome. :)

287. David Gerrold - March 16, 2009

#271

The contract I signed in 1967 guaranteed me a small piece of the merchandising. At that time, there was no significant syndication market, there were no VCRs, no laserdiscs, no DVDs, no cable channels, no satellite channels, no Internet, and no one could predict the explosive growth of the home media market. In fact, as much as I loved Star Trek at the time, my experience with SF on TV was that most people forgot it pretty quickly. At that time, no one knew that Twilight Zone and Star Trek and other shows would become long-term cultural artifacts.

In contract negotiations in 1973 and other negotiations afterward (at least three strikes), the Guild amended existing agreements to provide reuse residuals for shows not only filmed after the contract was signed but also shows filmed before the new contracts were agreed to. Unfortunately, those agreements did not cover the authors of scripts for such classic shows as I Love Lucy or Star Trek, shows which have been in syndication continuously for the past forty years.

This has created a situation where the studios are making millions of dollars without having to pay a nickel to those who created them. The argument that this is legal is correct. The argument that “you knew what you were signing when you signed it” is also correct. And this is why the WGAW has gone out on strike more than once to protect the rights of scriptwriters in the future.

But the contracts in effect when Star Trek was made do guarantee scriptwriters a small share of merchandising, whether it’s tribbles or anything else. Harlan Ellison had an agreement with Pocket Books that no derivative works would be purchased using characters he created. While John Ordover was editor that agreement was honored. When he left, the subsequent editors were either unaware of the agreement or chose to ignore it. Not being in the room, I can’t comment on why they decided the way they did, but apparently even after they were informed of the agreement they chose not to honor it. Harlan Ellison asked his lawyer to take action, he asked the Guild to support his action. I was there at one of those discussions. I’m not a lawyer, but I do take the time to research issues, because that’s 95% of what a good writer does. In my somewhat-informed opinion, Harlan Ellison has a case.

Now let me go back to a previous point. It pains me greatly to see science fiction fans attacking science fiction authors. If you don’t like a guy’s work, that’s one thing. That’s a fair reaction. If someone says to me, “I hated MARTIAN CHILD” or “your Chtorr series is derivative of Heinlein” I’ll say “thanks for sharing.” I won’t take it personally. You’re entitled to your reactions.

But there’s a much more serious line that needs to be drawn. The authors, the artists, the illustrators — we’re on the front lines. The best of us are putting our hearts and souls into our work. If we were to take 9-5 jobs, we could be earning a lot more money, but we write because we love writing. We create artwork because we love visualizing things. We give up the security of a steady paycheck for the adventure of imagination and discovery. What we ask in return is the support of the audience — if not your financial or critical support, then at least your moral support, your encouragement, your understanding.

Most of us are fans, just like you. Most of us who write, we’re telling the stories we want to read but can’t find in the library. Most of us who write, we’re taking the time to visualize science fiction and fantasy the way we think it should be. You’re free to disagree with our visualizations, and if you catch us in a scientific error or a logical error or a writing error, the best of us will thank you, because we learn something from your feedback.

BUT …

Nowhere in that particular piece of the social contract are you granted the right or the authority to judge any of us as human beings, let alone condemn. If you don’t like our personalities…well, try wandering around a science fiction convention and looking at the behavior of other fans. A lot of you don’t have much in the way of personalities either. But for the most part, there’s an unwritten agreement that we all tolerate each other’s quirks and idiosyncrasies, weird behaviors and even stranger manners of speaking and dressing.

I know Harlan. He and DC Fontana are two of my very best friends, the most long-lasting of friends I have in the SF community. (And not just because we’ve fought some of the same battles, but because we respect each other as talented and committed writers.) Harlan is an unofficial godfather of my son. Harlan gave me encouragement when I was struggling to understand the enormous gap between desperately wanting to write well and actually gaining insight into the nature of writing effectively. Harlan taught me more lessons than I can list here. And on one desperate day in 1969, he said something that may very well have saved my life. Harlan Ellison is not just my friend, he’s my family, and if you want to attack him, you have to go through me.

This is the point: All of the negative remarks said here about Harlan — that’s not Harlan, that’s not the Harlan I know. That’s some reputation that people have made up and pasted onto a man who is more human, more authentic, more passionate, more compassionate, more generous than 90% of the people I’ve ever met in my life. He is a gracious human being, funny and entertaining. He considers life a daring adventure and is eager to share it with others. He gets the colossal joke that has been played on all of us by a universe that has created us as human beings. He lives in a domain that not a lot of people are eager to embrace because it means living out of the comfort zone — and I guess that scares some people, so they have to hate him for doing what they’re afraid to.

Does he sometimes lose patience with stupidity and injustice? Yes. That’s not a flaw. That’s a virtue. Instead of attacking him for it, you should applaud him for his courage. He’s behaving in real life in a way that we applaud when we see our screen heroes do it.

But all the negative stuff that’s been posted here…it’s out of line. It presumes that fans have the right to sit in judgment of authors’ private lives. It presumes that fans have a relationship that doesn’t exist. It crosses the boundaries of courtesy and respect. It violates the social contract of fandom’s higher vision that all people are treated with dignity and respect.

And not to put too fine a point on it. To those of you who still think you have the right to post ugly things about my friend, you’re not denigrating Harlan Ellison. You’re denigrating yourselves. Your remarks say nothing about the man, but they say volumes about you. The ugliness makes you look small and petty and ignorant to those of us who know the truth. This is a man who has worked tirelessly for more than half a century in this genre. He has done more for science fiction and science fiction writers than all the people who think that exploiting a franchise is advancing the human adventure or expanding the event horizons of the human soul.

The general attitude of disrespect shown by some people in this thread (as well as in others) is one of the reasons why more SF writers do not participate in these conversations. One or two negative voices taint the whole community. These kinds of conversations are one of the primary reasons why many of the more successful SF writers have politely retreated from more active roles in fan arenas.

It’s your community, you can make it into anything you want. Does peeing in the swimming pool make it a better place to swim?

288. thorsten - March 17, 2009

@287…

Thank you for your post, David.
You bring up so many good points that reading it once it not enough. And I was moved by your personal comments. I read I Have No Mouth for the first time in 1978, and became an instant fan. I knew nothing about Harlan, perdonally. There are two SF writers who I became friends with over the years, Neal Asher and Douglas Adams. And others I meet on a regular basis, like William Gibson. I became a fan of Hard SF pretty early in my life, thanks to Star Trek, which opened the door. And I am from a city that honors writers, Thomas Mann is from here, and Guenter Grass works 100 meters from where I sit now. While I usually buy Harlans books at City Lights, I ordered his two last anthologies yesterday. As a kind of support, maybe, but because I just love his stuff.

289. Iowagirl - March 17, 2009

Thank you very much for your informative and personal posts, David. Having wonderful writers like yourself posting here makes this site a truly special place to be.

290. Battletrek - March 17, 2009

Sorry we have you Mr. Gerrold.

291. Battletrek - March 17, 2009

Correction.
Sorry we have shamed you Mr. Gerrold.

292. Baffle Plate - March 17, 2009

The thank you for the the dose of enlightenment Mr. Gerrold, I don’t know all the facts about HE’s case and I wish him well. My opinion is that most fans are passionate about this show and the people that create it, and is stimulating conversation and debate. Not all constructive mind you, but it is bringing us all togetherto do what well written SF drama should do-conversation. I appreciate his honesty in regards to his motives- hey we all want to get paid! But sometimes its the diatribes that are tedious. HE is an intelligent man and is well spoken but at times degenerates into a raging monster on this subject of Trek. I know the media at large likes to blow this out of proportion and fans look at him as a bitter wacko. The passion is there but he could be a real force for change for writers and creators being compensated properly. This is not his goal, but i want to see a great talent like HE keep creating a not let this poison his soul. I will add this I like that HE has a take me as I am warts and all attitude, in this pc world it is a refreshing throwback. Thanks to HE for a great Trek episode and you sir for a great Trek contribution and helping to define my childhood memories of a great show. Go get yours Harlan!

293. JL - March 17, 2009

I was actually surprised to see that the response to Harlan’s video clip on YouTube has been overwhelmingly positive. As in, “It’s about time someone said it!” and “Go Harlan!”

I agree with Mr. Ellison’s message.

I am a creative person, it’s how I make my living. I can relate to this subject.

If you have even the slightest bit of common sense, then you know corporate juggernauts have thrived on taking advantage of those who cannot defend themselves. Yes, that would be creative people – – such as writers. Apparently it has been going on for decades.

Personally, and with all due respect to you Mr. Gerrold, your friend comes off as a crusty curmudgeon. He is absolutely full of himself (I don’t need to go there, it’s well documented). BUT – BUT I believe a lot of us think his message is valid. His delivery could use some work.

Didn’t Kirk say something like: “Mr. Spock, you misunderstand us… we can dislike someone and admire him all at the same time…”

294. Spotts1701 - March 17, 2009

284. “You are not a member of the WGA, nor do you have any experience in these matters.”

No I am not – I am, however, a graduate of an accredited law school. And I was pointing out that contracts (even ones seemingly written in black and white) become open to interpretation when dragged into a court of law.

You are of the opinion that if it’s on paper, there is no room for discussion. That’s just not how it works – courts can and have found that even plain and specific language may not mean what everyone in the room thinks it means based on factors beyond the “four corners of the contract”.

295. krikzil - March 17, 2009

I personally am a huge fan of Harlan and love that he speaks his mind and fights the good fight. I think a lot of folks just don’t get him or are put off by such a strong personality — a trait I admire.

As for his personality….all the horrible comments in this thread have NO place here. It’s a discussion about the merits of a LAWSUIT, period.

Funny, some of you would have been outraged, have been outraged, at the slightest negative remark about JJ Abrams or the writers of the new film and yet remain silent or worse add to the nastiness of this thread.

296. Ian B - March 17, 2009

David Gerrold-

That’s certainly a point of view, from the writer’s perspective. If there are parts of Mr Ellison’s contract that haven’t been honoured, then yes, he has a case and good luck to him.

But I, personally object to the idea of reinterpretation of contracts in the light of subsequent unpredicted events. As you said, nobody knew that Star Trek would become a phenomenon, or that VCRs and DVDs would be invented, or the huge merchandising market would arise years later. The contracts signed in the 60s were signed with the knowledge available then, and no contract should be judged in the light of 40 years of change in the marketplace. Ellison doesn’t have some kind of right to more money in the name of arbitrary “fairness”. He’s entitled to what he contracted to do 40 years ago, and what he did was write a first draft of a script for a weekly TV show that was cancelled not long after. It’s a good episode, or became one after it had been rewritten and realised by the efforts of fine actors, the director, the production designer and all the other creative individuals who made City On The Edge.

Is the Guardian Of Forever remembered because of Ellison’s invention of a rather cliched time travel device, or because of the production design, voice acting, direction, etc? Is melodrama-staple Edith Keeler anything special, or just a character in a story that is only famous because the entire Star Trek series is famous? Is the guy who really deserves all the kudos Bill Shatner, for turning a standard TV adventure series lead character into a memorable icon? Who knows?

Personal perspective; I’m a “creative”. I write and draw a comic, on the web, entirely independently, and spend my life struggling to sell subscriptions to it. It would be nice to have the marketing muscle of a major media company- I would be far wealthier, probably. But I don’t. On the other hand, it’s mine, all mine, and if it ever did take off, I’d get all the money. This gamble is a standard one that every creative person has to take. By working for big companies, you get more money than independently publishing- your work will be seen by millions and attract all the advantages it gets from being part of that massive corporate structure. In return, you trade your ownership of what you create. It’s a fair trade. You may think you’re underpaid (but then, who doesn’t?) but you are at least guaranteed that paycheck, and a career in your chosen industry, working for hire. You’ve chosen not to take a risk. It’s a trade.

So I have little sympathy for those who make that trade, then come back afterwards and complain they wanted more, not unlike a particular comic creator who springs to mind who deliberately worked for large comics companies, then complains he doesn’t own his works. He could have self-published, using his own characters. But then… nobody might ever have heard of him and care a fig about a forgotten self-publisher.

The market is all about making trades based on your desires and judgement at the time. You make the trade, it’s done. If decades later you think you’re “entitled” to more, well- tough. You got the cheque in your bank account, and that was what you wanted at the time. End of story. There is no moral entitlement beyond that.

297. bill hiro - March 17, 2009

Re: #284 – “I am, however, a graduate of an accredited law school.”

So am I. I am also licensed and have been in private practice for over a decade. I haven’t read the contract. I haven’t read the WGA agreement in force at the time, nor any subsequent agreements that might relate back to the one in effect in 1966 and 1967. Thus I am not offering an opinion about the matter at issue.

298. Benjamin Adams - March 17, 2009

I met Harlan at a World Horror Convention in Atlanta back in the ’90s. At the time I was a newbie horror writer with a handful of professional short story sales under my belt. Oddly, somehow Harlan and I hit it off when I spoke to him after a panel, and for the rest of the con would strike up small conversations whenever we’d bump into each other.

A short while before this con, Harlan had appeared on a TV interview show, during which the subject of items he’d lost in a recent earthquake came up. He held up a broken Warner Bros. character mug and asked that if anyone had a replacement, let him know.

I had the same mug. At the con, I let Harlan know, and told him I’d like to give it to him so his collection was once again complete. He promptly gave me his address; when I returned home to Chicago, I posted it and didn’t think anything more of it.

Untl four days later, when the phone rang at 7am. My wife blearily reached over me and picked up the phone, then handed it to me, saying, “It’s Harlan Ellison.”

I proceeded to have an hour-long chat wih Harlan on the phone, ranging from what I could possibly want in return for the mug — I kept saying, “No, nothing,” to which Harlan replied, “Bullshit, you deserve something in return” — to living and working in the Chicago area. We figured that the record shop I managed in Evanston was in the very same building he had once worked in the ’50s.

Five days after that, I received a package in the mail from Harlan, containing several hardcover volumes of his work personally inscribed to me.

He wasn’t inviting me to have a friendship with him, so I didn’t have the presumption to continue, beyond sending him a thank-you note. But this small interaction with Harlan was absolutely the finest I’ve ever had with any big-name SF writer.

299. ss - March 17, 2009

297: The complaint is now up on Ellison’s website. Nothing to do with copyright, everything to do with the meaning of the phrase “publication rights” in the 1960 WGA collective bargaining agreement as amended in 1966 (i.e., is the phrase inclusive of exact publication of the manuscript only or also of various derivative works involving the creative content of the manuscript). Also, the complaint alludes to the fact that the claim may be time barred, but seems to try to avoid the issue by saying that Ellison has never had notice of the claim for these purposes because he discovered the failure to pay himself and was not notified by the studio… I don’t know, sounds a little iffy to me, but I’m not familiar with the statute.

300. Tom Thumb - March 17, 2009

284 – “No I am not – I am, however, a graduate of an accredited law school. And I was pointing out that contracts (even ones seemingly written in black and white) become open to interpretation when dragged into a court of law”

Yes, they do. But your suggestions are simply absurd. In the history of the WGA, no one has ever tried to deny a credited writer his due payments by bringing in rumor or innuendo about the “real” authorship of a screenplay. You are engaging in fanboy absurdity. Beyond that, whatever you may have heard about this script through the fanboy network, the fact is that Ellison is the sole creator of the characters Edith Keeler and the Guardians. As I keep saying – and as you refuse to hear – you do not know what you’re speaking about here. Why are you so intent on pushing an uninformed opinion? What’s the upside for you?

296 – Ian,

Your personal issues with people whose work reaches a larger audience than yours is beside the point. The rights you would deny these creators are already established, in spite of your personal need to see these people suffer. Your anger, jealousy and ire are duly noted, but this is a legal issue, and legally speaking, Mr. Ellison is due his payment. That’s what’s at issue, not your own personal animosity for people who do work for hire.

301. Buddy Briscoe - March 17, 2009

301st!!!!!!!

What this man needs is a shovel upside the head. A plastic shovel, for the humanitarians among you.

302. De Baisch - March 17, 2009

If Gene Roddenberry had put himself or DC Fontana (or whoever did the rewrite) on the “Written by” credit, would this discussion even be taking place? What were the WGA rules about that at the time?

I’m genuinely asking, not casting aspersions one way or the other.

303. Ian B - March 17, 2009

300 Tom Thumb,

It’s interesting that you attempt to read my post as “angry, jealous” etc, in such an ad hominem way. I don’t have “personal issues” with anyone. I’m glad people work for hire, as it has gifted me much enjoyable entertainment of various shows, comics etc. I think the corporate media structure is, in general a Good Thing. The 20th Century’s bounty of media is entirely unparalleled in history, and those who rail against it are ignoring the wealth we have all gained from it. I’m not the least bit bitter against anyone.

What I was saying was that everyone makes a choice about how they wish to work, as always in the marketplace, and they balance up whether creative freedom is more important than security or a mass market or a guaranteed contracted paycheque, and so on. What I have no sympathy for is people trying to get the benefits of for-hire security then claiming to have been shortchanged in some way- a person writing for hire with preexisting characters is gaining a preexisting market and all the benefits thereof. Effectively, they are trading security against failure, against potentially greater gains, and they need to recognise that. A person contracted to be paid $1000 for a script will get that regardless of whether the work doesn’t make a penny- the risk has been taken by the company hiring them. If a subsequent “windfall” of unexpected success occurs, the company that took the risk deserves that profit. You never see a for-hire writer demaning a share of the losses.

Risk vs. security: choose one of the above.

304. Benjamin Adams - March 17, 2009

#301 – A shovel upside the head.

For trying to get the 25% in royalties his WGA master contract says he’s entitled to, for the use of his creations Edith Keeler and the Guardian of Forever. Specifically, he wants his royalties for the use of these in the Crucible novels and the Hallmark ornament. That’s why this is happening now.

Riiiiiight. A shovel upside the head.

So very wonderful to see physical violence against a writer being advocated simply because he’s trying to get his royalties.

305. Benjamin Adams - March 17, 2009

#303 – his original contract says he’s entitled to 25% of the royalties earned from using these characters. That’s what he’s asking for. It’s in his damn contract — a WGA master contract, *not* a standard work-for-hire contract.. Your own personal opinions matter not. It’s in the contract.

306. Closettrekker - March 17, 2009

My question in all of this is simple.

If Ellison’s written contract does entitle him to royalties on the use of The Guardian and/or Edith Keeler, and he has tried unsuccessfully to collect from CBS/Paramount for years, then why is there no lawsuit?

If I really felt that I was legitimately owed substantial money and the potential defendant had proven entirely uncooperative in all this time, I think I would have acted legally by now.

Is Ellison biding his time so that the maximum amount of money can be declared owed to him by the courts, or is he not quite as confident in his argument as he claims?

#305—“Your own personal opinions matter not. It’s in the contract.”

I’m curious as to how you know that. Is his contract covering his work on “The City On The Edge Of Forever” a public one, or is this speculation on your part?

Surely, if he has a contract that, as you say, entitles him to 25% of royalties from merchandising sales (on products that feature Edith Keeler and/or The Guardian) or the reuse of his characters, then he has a right to receive that money.

But I have to think that it is likely more complicated than that. Otherwise, why the delay in filing a lawsuit? Can he only do so through the WGA (who he claims has been unhelpful)? I would think that all he needs is a good contract attorney.

What’s the holdup?

307. krikzil - March 17, 2009

Closet — a lot of what he is objecting to is fairly recent –that trilogy of books and the Hallmark ornament. He also DID ask the WGA to act and they failed to. Not a shocker there either.

And studios are notorious for failing to pay royalties owed despite standard contracts or claiming there was no profit when it comes to profit participation. I worked for a firm that handled artists (actors, writers, directors, etc.) and all we did was try to prove that our clients were owed money. I knew the studios were bad (my stepdad had a merchandising issue when I was younger) but this was a real eye opener.

308. ss - March 17, 2009

306:
You can find the complaint on Ellison’s website, but the brief answers to your questions are:
-There is a lawsuit now.
-Ellison seems to claim that he has waited to act until now for several reasons. First, he did not receive notice from Paramount that they were making money off of derivative works based on the episode, and it therefore took a while for him to figure it out for himself. Second, he seems to have spent some time trying to get the Writer’s Guild to bring the claim to the studio on his behalf (and I gather this is the common practice). Third, many of the works derived from the episode are alleged to have been created in just the last 4 years or so (the tree ornament and the books).
-The portions of the contract alleged by Ellison to be relevant to this dispute are publicly available, as he quotes them in his complaint (on his website).
-You’re right that it might get a little complicated. There seems to be some dispute about the meaning of the term “publication rights” means in the contract. Ellison gets 25% of net receipts received by the studio when the studio grants publication rights to a third party (here, I think we’re talking about the books). However, the Writer’s Guild may have taken the position that “publication rights” means only the right to publish the actual manuscript, and not the right to publish works derived from the manuscript. Consequently, a percentage of “publication rights” may or may not include the proceeds from the book deal. Also, there may be a contractual time period in which Ellison was supposed to bring these claims after the studio violates its obligations, and it may have elapsed prior to this suit, but Ellison is arguing that it never started to run because he was never on notice of the violation (since the studio never mentioned it was making money off of the episode).

309. krikzil - March 17, 2009

http://harlanellison.com/heboard/visitors/startrekcomplaint.pdf

I had to chuckle with the mention of Paramount having to check the “big computer.”

310. Closettrekker - March 17, 2009

#307—“a lot of what he is objecting to is fairly recent –that trilogy of books and the Hallmark ornament.”

5 years later on the ornament, and 3 years later on the trilogy books. My guess is he wanted to get some hard numbers out there to go after.

“He also DID ask the WGA to act and they failed to. Not a shocker there either.”

And it doesn’t speak well of the WGA’s worth to its members.

It doesn’t surprise me at all that CBS/Paramount isn’t being forthcoming with its books and isn’t willing to settle quickly. That would undoubtedly open a floodgate for other writers with contracts similar to Ellison’s who feel they might also be entitled to royalties. Increasing overhead costs is never attractive—especially now.

It will also either raise the price of future items like this to a point where such things remain profitable for CBS/Paramount, or encourage the studio to discontinue items like this altogether. There may be a victory for the writers—but ultimately, the consumers/fans will suffer in the end. I guarantee you that the cost of paying royalties (in the future) to the likes of Harlan Ellison will not come out of the studio’s profit margins. Either you will pay for it, or they will no longer be sold (which would make what you already have more valuable!).

311. sean - March 17, 2009

#287

Everyone should take the time to read what Mr Gerrold has written here. It’s easy to sit comfortably behind the anonymity of the internet and spew hateful accusations at a man 99% of us have never met, but just because something is easy doesn’t mean A)we should do it or B)it makes us right. Harlan may say some pretty controversial things, but he says it publicly, right to your face. He doesn’t hide from anything he’s said, and takes full responsibility. That takes real guts.

312. bill hiro - March 17, 2009

Re: 299 – thanks for the heads up. I guess, in my initial comment, I should have said that not only haven’t I seen the contract and the WGA agreement(s), I have no intention of reading them, unless Mr. Ellison wants to retain my services. Unless I’m doing something pro bono, like Harlan, I don’t take a piss without getting paid.

313. Tahni - March 17, 2009

As much as I love Harlan’s work… give it up already, man.

314. JL - March 17, 2009

313

If you really belive in something, never give up. Ever!

If it weren’t for people like Harlan – – people who stand up and shout in an effort to put a stop to something that is wrong – – then the rest of us would be in serious trouble. Or worse – – we may not even be here.

315. Tom Thumb - March 17, 2009

302 – De Baisch,

“If Gene Roddenberry had put himself or DC Fontana (or whoever did the rewrite) on the “Written by” credit, would this discussion even be taking place? What were the WGA rules about that at the time?”

They couldn’t have just put their names on it. The Guild had – and has – rules about that. Fontana (who, I understand, did the actual rewrite) would have had to arbitrate the matter with the Guild, and the Guild would have determined final credit. The most they could have hope for would be a co-writing credit (as a writer who has served on arbitrations, it’s highly unlikely they would have even gotten that. In spite of what the fanboys here like to assert, the changes made to Ellison’s script were not significant enough to warrant a credit). If they’d gotten a co-writing credit on the episode, nothing would change save the amount of money Ellison was due. His claim would be just as strong.

303 Ian B,

“It’s interesting that you attempt to read my post as “angry, jealous” etc, in such an ad hominem way. I don’t have “personal issues” with anyone.”

Regardless of the fact that Ellison is contractually due monies, you wish to deny them to him because he did the work in question for hire.

310 – Closettrekker,

“It doesn’t surprise me at all that CBS/Paramount isn’t being forthcoming with its books and isn’t willing to settle quickly. That would undoubtedly open a floodgate for other writers with contracts similar to Ellison’s who feel they might also be entitled to royalties. ”

Who ARE entitled to royalties. So what you’re saying is that the studio should be allowed to screw writers out of money they’re contractually due because it would be too complicated to pay them back.

All you people are here because you purport to be Star Trek fans, and yet, when presented with a situation in which an individual artist stands up for his rights, you immediately take the side of the enormous corporation who had no creative input whatsoever into the show you all love.

As Spock would say…. fascinating.

316. Ian B - March 17, 2009

Tom Thumb, you seem to be basing your retorts to me on what you wish I’d said, rather than on anything I actually said, while ascribing to me emotions I do not feel and opinions I do not hold, and neither of which I have communicated in my posts on the subject. I have no interest in denying Mr Ellison that to which he is contractually entitled, as my first paragraph in my first post made clear. What is being discussed is the question of what he is actually contractually entitled to, and whether contracts should be reinterpreted in the light of developments long after they were signed. In particular it seems to hinge on whether an ornament can be interpreted as “publication”, which seems to be rather debatable.

Please don’t be so underhanded as to portray anyone who disagrees with you as being somehow morally reprehensible.

317. Closettrekker - March 17, 2009

#315—-“Who ARE entitled to royalties. So what you’re saying is that the studio should be allowed to screw writers out of money they’re contractually due because it would be too complicated to pay them back….”

I said no such thing.

I said “it doesn’t surprise me”. I’ve got news for you—lots of selfish acts (legal or otherwise) fail to surprise me.

I do not suggest that Ellison is not entitled to what he is asking for, but I do not accept it as a given either. “Publication rights” could be interpreted by the Court as meaning merely the publication of the script, short-story adaptations, etc. It may be seen as having nothing to do with merchandising or the use of a character in another story.

The again, it may be that the Court sides with Ellison.

“All you people are here because you purport to be Star Trek fans, and yet, when presented with a situation in which an individual artist stands up for his rights, you immediately take the side of the enormous corporation who had no creative input whatsoever into the show you all love.”

An individual is standing up for what “he perceives” to be “his rights”.It is up to a court of law to determine what his “rights” in this matter are.

I cannot speak for anyone else, but I do not feel that I am in a position (or informed enough) to determine whether Mr. Ellison is right or wrong. I am certainly not taking a side, although it seems clear that not only have you done so, but you’re implying that anyone who disagrees with you is somehow betraying the people who brought Star Trek to us.

(insert sarcasm here)It is a shame that some Star Trek fans may choose to march to their own drum, instead of one dictated to them.

318. Closettrekker - March 17, 2009

#316—Well said.

It certainly doesn’t seem to be “open and shut” either way. And I don’t know who this “Tom Thumb” is, but he does seem to have a bit of difficulty with reading comprehension.

I never said what he suggested either.

319. Odkin - March 17, 2009

Everybody cheerleading the “guts” to “never stop fighting”, “get in people’s faces”, and “stand up and shout” better realize that there are two sides to every fight, and that BOTH sides usually think they are right.

Unlike cartoons and sciene fiction, no one EVER thinks they are “evil” or wrong. The people you imagine are wrong are not going to wither and fold because of an attack of conscience. They think they are just as right as the other guy. You are just impotently cheerleading a prolonged fight.

Ellison is a bully. I’m sure he has his moments that make him feel all warm and cuddly, whether it’s sending some free books or helping a gay man adopt a baby. But the long and public record speaks for itself on his professional behavior. Just because he writes in a genre we like does not make him heroic, sympathetic, an underdog, or automatically right.

320. Tom Thumb - March 17, 2009

319. Odkin,

“Everybody cheerleading the “guts” to “never stop fighting”, “get in people’s faces”, and “stand up and shout” better realize that there are two sides to every fight, and that BOTH sides usually think they are right.”

That’s naive. Usually in these cases, the corporate entity doesn’t care, or knows they’re in the wrong. They count on the people they screw not doing anything about it. In this business, it is not uncommon for some companies to ONLY pay when they’re sued. This isn’t a small claims court case between two neighbors.

“Ellison is a bully. I’m sure he has his moments that make him feel all warm and cuddly, whether it’s sending some free books or helping a gay man adopt a baby. But the long and public record speaks for itself on his professional behavior. ”

Easy to say this sort of thing when you’re cowering behind a fake name. Loathsome to say this sort of thing in light of Mr. Gerrold’s heartfelt comments about his friend. As someone who works in the same field as Ellison, let me say that I admire the man tremendously for standing up when so many choose to duck and cover. If you were half the man he is, you’d post your repulsive personal attacks under your real name.

321. krikzil - March 17, 2009

“Either you will pay for it, or they will no longer be sold (which would make what you already have more valuable!).”

The studios take no risk on merchandise — it’s the licensees that pay for the privilege and take the bath if the product fails. And the last few decades have provided most studios with pure profit with the continual development of new media every few years. Heck, I know I’ve helped Paramount/CBS with my laser disk, VHS tapes, DVDs and now digital itune downloads of the episodes and movies! ;)

322. Grady Christie - March 17, 2009

Harlan Ellison has always had an overinflated opinion of himself. But he should get what he has coming to him. I remember reading somtime back that he had a hand in the ST-TOS episode “The Cloud Minders” that it was based on a short story of his (“Castles in the Sky”). You don’t ever hear much about that because it’s one of those lesser know third season episodes.

323. JL - March 17, 2009

“If you were half the man he is, you’d post your repulsive personal attacks under your real name.”

You tell him, Tom Thumb!!

(just messin’ with ya)

324. galaxy quest 2 - March 17, 2009

320…Is Tom Thumb really Harlan Ellison? Tom,What do You say?

325. galaxy quest 2 - March 17, 2009

I’ll say one thing.
Ellison’ has a shrewd sense of timing.When the new Trek movie comes out his story may (witness;is riding via Trek movie Report )ride the publicity and anticipation around the film.

326. Gadfly86 - March 17, 2009

#322 Castles in the Sky was a Gerrold story, not an Ellison one.

327. John from Cincinnati - March 17, 2009

248.

First of all, don’t tell ANYONE not to post here. If you don’t like the comments, simply look past them.

Anthony Pascale: Note Spock’s Brain is in violation of the rules of this website and guilty of trolling.

Again, I don’t agree with everyone on here, but I am educated enough to know what kind of forum I am participating in and the last time I checked, there is still a thing called free speech in this country.So if you’re looking for legal opinions, you came to the wrong place.

As far as Harlan goes, I love ‘City on the Edge of Forever”. Thank you for providing the character of Edith Keeler and the Guardian and thank you to Gene Roddenberry for writing the story.

328. Closettrekker - March 17, 2009

#321—“it’s the licensees that pay for the privilege and take the bath if the product fails. ”

A good point. I suppose that makes this kind of case even more unclear as to what Ellison would be owed (if the Court decides he is indeed owed anything).

Take the Hallmark example. Hallmark pays CBS/Paramount for a license. One of the products manufactured under that license is a COTEOF X-Mas ornament.

Does Hallmark pay 1/4 of its profits from just that ornament to Ellison, or is CBS/Paramount made to pay a portion of the entire license fee to Ellison?

If it is the former, is that any more fair to Hallmark than it is to Ellison (I think that CBS/Paramount would probably have to compensate Hallmark)?

And if it is the latter, doesn’t that encourage CBS/Paramount to charge more for future product licenses in order to compensate for the portion that might have to be paid to Ellison (and probably other writers in the future)?

Either way, one of two things is likely to happen:
1) Paramount’s license fee is more expensive, forcing the licensee to pass on that cost increase to the consumer;

Or

2) The licensee’s requirement to pay a third party additional fees makes manufacturing and selling that product no longer viable (another loss for the fan).

And I cannot help but see this scenario over at Pocketbooks…

A Star Trek novelist pitches a book to the editor with a potentially good story idea, but since it involves a character that would require a portion of the profits to be paid to a third party, the idea gets shot down.

The reality of it is, someone is going to get laid off, creative ideas become stifled, or you and I have to pay more for a product.

This doesn’t mean that Ellison may not deserve what he is asking for, but these are real-world ramifications (especially since this potentially goes far beyond Ellison as a possible precedent).

“And the last few decades have provided most studios with pure profit with the continual development of new media every few years. ”

No doubt about that, but it is not about feeling sorry or not sorry for an anonymous entity like a giant corporation. For every action—there is a reaction.

If Company “A” is used to receiving “Y” amount of profit, and suddenly that amount is reduced to “X” as a result of re-interpretation of 40 year old contract wording, Company “A” will view that as “loss of profit”. They will not say to themselves, “Oh well, we never deserved that anyway”.

They will (and correctly so, from a business perspective) make adjustments to compensate. Most likely, they will charge more for a product license, and in turn, the licensee will charge you more for the product. If the cost begins to exceed what the market will bear, that business becomes no longer viable in general.

329. Tom Thumb - March 17, 2009

323. – I’m not posting slurs on anyone based on rumors I’ve heard on the internet. When I start attacking the character of total strangers based only on second hand information, I’ll be happy to use my real name.

And if you think I’m Harlan Ellison, you’re as ignorant of the man as any of the creatures posting ugly attacks on his character.

330. Closettrekker - March 17, 2009

#329—“I’m not posting slurs on anyone based on rumors I’ve heard on the internet. ”

But you are putting words into the mouths of other posters, and drawing more than questionable conclusions from their comments on this site. Moreover, you have also implied that people who call themselves Star Trek fans that may not agree with your position should somehow feel ashamed for not blindly siding with the writer in question.

I find that equally insulting.

“And if you think I’m Harlan Ellison, you’re as ignorant of the man as any of the creatures posting ugly attacks on his character.”

I know I do not believe you are really Harlan Ellison, but I do believe you have some difficulty with reading comprehension.

I’m still waiting for an explantion as to how you get this:

” So what you’re saying is that the studio should be allowed to screw writers out of money they’re contractually due because it would be too complicated to pay them back. ”

From this:

“It doesn’t surprise me at all that CBS/Paramount isn’t being forthcoming with its books and isn’t willing to settle quickly. That would undoubtedly open a floodgate for other writers with contracts similar to Ellison’s who feel they might also be entitled to royalties. Increasing overhead costs is never attractive—especially now.”

I’d like to know just how “not being surpised” equates to moral approval in your mind.

331. THX-1138-Star Trek: Timmy! - March 17, 2009

That Edith Keeler merchandise must be worth a FORTUNE.

332. Nivenus - March 17, 2009

“261 – is the WGA agreement that was in place in 1966 available on-line? Where would someone find it? I would be very interested in reading it.”

QFT. I’m all for honoring the contract. But, as far as I know, media merchandising didn’t really exist in 1966. My statement was not based on actual knowledge of the contract, but guesswork, as I stated in my post.

I would be surprised if the contract was available, but I’m happy to read through it.

I’ll grant that I know little of the subject at the time. However, today, I’m pretty certain that writers for derivative works do not get merchandising rights. Nor, for that matter, rights to characters written by them. Zahn doesn’t get a check everytime somebody uses Mara Jade from his Star Wars novels for instance.

It may have been different in 1966. But I have seen no evidence of this yet. If you have some, please provide it.

333. P Technobabble - March 17, 2009

I really have to ask those who seem to be so anti-Ellison, “Why do you really give a shit what Ellison is up to? Just because you may not like him, that means he doesn’t have a right to do or say what he thinks is right — as if YOU wouldn’t??? Isn’t yours the sort of attitude that would lead to the elimination of our First Amendment — and you’d start by shutting up Ellison, whether or not he has a legitimate beef, eh?” It’s certainly true, the anonymity of the internet allows one to say whatever one wants, but what they say still reveals the real person, hm? The planet is swarming with rude and crude…
I do realize that my plea for sanity, intelligence, consideration and thoughtfulness will go unnoticed in this techno-21st century world, but I think I was John the Baptist in another life…

334. screaming satellite - March 17, 2009

didnt Peter Jackson do something similar with New Line over LOTR profits?…think he was after some extra money. i read somewhere that he personally earned $250m (surely that cant be right!) off the trilogy (actually it could be as each film made around $1billion) and was annoyed that New Line hadnt paid him the extra few million or so?

dunno if thats right or not but thats how i remember reading it…

335. K.Kirby - March 17, 2009

When it comes to the exploitation of copyrighted material, those ornaments probably are the “last straw” in a way. Imagine seeing one of these keepsakes hanging around, portraying one of your own personal products, and you may get the picture. Ebay has a good assortment of them up, including Tribbles.

336. screaming satellite - March 17, 2009

331 – they shouldve made an Edith Keeler movie or tv show in the mid 70s starring the eternally hot Joan Collins

the premise couldve been Edith growing up in the early years of the 20th century – getting into adventures etc…then the final bit of the movie or the final episode of the show wouldve been COTEOF except from Keelers POV…shatner, nimoy and kelley cameos

btw ‘Keeler’ = ‘Killer?’….after all she was (inadvertently) responsible for humanities downfall (in the alternate timeline)…im assuming humanity destroyed itself eventually or maybe she was responsible for the mirror universe? (hasn’t that been suggested b4 somewhere? I cant have just made that up surely!)

337. Sage Wiseman - March 17, 2009

327–As far as Harlan goes, I love ‘City on the Edge of Forever”. Thank you for providing the character of Edith Keeler and the Guardian and thank you to Gene Roddenberry for writing the story.

John, now you are deliberately being obtuse. Troll-like, even.

338. Sage Wiseman - March 17, 2009

That at least 2 people in this thread have suggested violence upon Ellison truly shows a sad side of Trek fandom.

339. Fansince9 - March 17, 2009

338: Anger voiced by threatning violence is not acceptable, however it is not exclusive to Trek fandom. In fact, very few people here have done that. There are people like that everywhere, in any circumstance.

340. Sage Wiseman - March 17, 2009

RESIDUALS: How they work.

In my semi-informed opinion…

Residuals were created because the studios said it was too expensive to pay the writers a decent, up-front wage. So the writers agreed to take less money up front if the studios would pay a small additional amount every time the show was re-aired.

That some shows became mega-hits and were rerun thousands of times was a good thing, both for the studios and the writers.

341. Tom Thumb - March 17, 2009

332- Nivenus: “However, today, I’m pretty certain that writers for derivative works do not get merchandising rights. ”

All of this information is easily available to anyone who wants the opinions they spout on the internet to have any actual validity.

If you write an episode of Lost, and you create a character for that episode – even if JJ Abrams actually created it and told you to put him in the episode – you are, in fact, due monies every time the character is used, and any time there’s merchandising utilizing that character.

342. Sage Wiseman - March 17, 2009

339–“however it is not exclusive to Trek fandom”

Oh, definitely true. But one would expect more from Trek fandom because that was the entire basis for Trek, that all people would one day come together to create a better world/universe.

343. thorsten - March 17, 2009

@341…

Now I wonder, why did you pick Lost, Tom?
;))

344. Roy Harper - March 17, 2009

Tom Thumb=Josh Olson.

345. Sage Wiseman - March 17, 2009

Tom Thumb=Jeph Loeb.

346. Tom Thumb - March 17, 2009

Tom Thumb = Roy Harper

347. Chris Basken - March 17, 2009

Harlan might get more sympathy if he wasn’t more famous for suing people than creating work himself.

I still don’t get the Demon With a Glass Hand / Terminator connection. Does Harlan think he invented robots and time travel? Or is it just that he’s the only one who’s allowed to use both in the same story?

348. Steve M - March 17, 2009

@340 — Exactly right. Residuals are a compromise between the creator and the studio that allow the writer to earn a decent living while reducing the studio’s up-front risk, then sharing the reward if the product is successful. Problem is, the studios are (and have always been) absolute masters at manipulating figures. Having worked for all the major studios except FOX (although one of my best pals has worked there) I can tell you that they will go to any length to screw people out of the money they’re owed. Often their attitude is, “Let ‘em sue us,” because they know that most creators don’t have the resources. (Although they often play nice with the creators they want to be in business with, who are currently making lots of money for them or their competitors.)

I’ll never understand the attitude that some people take that multinational conglomerates somehow deserve every dollar they make from exploiting ams-media artistic works simply because they fronted the money to produce & distribute those works. Why would a fan ever side with a studio against the creator of the thing he’s a fan of?

This whole thing is very simple to me. Artists (writers/directors/actors/musicians/etc) in the mass market media create works of lasting value — shows/performances/songs that can continue to generate revenue for years, even decades, in a variety of ways. Why shouldn’t the creators SHARE in the profits? And no, “because they signed a work-for-hire” contract isn’t a satisfactory answer. Those vile contracts really exist only in the United States as a way to wrench the copyright away from the artist. In every other country, IIRC, the copyright for a teleplay stays with its author. I receive “foreign royalties” from dozens of European and Latin American countries for my TV episodes, paid for by taxes collected by the respective governments on blank media, and assigned to the author of the piece — the screenwriter.

@341 — Also exactly right. I once “created” a character for a TV episode at the showrunner’s direction. I named him and gave him his personality, but the character’s function was dictated to me by the producer. Guess who received “character payments” for the next four episodes he appeared in?

349. rich - March 17, 2009

Tom Thumb is Josh Olson. Oscar-nominated screenwriter for a script that was made better by Cronenberg, and all ’round pal of Ellison. Nothing wrong with either of those things, actually, but I find it ironic that ‘Tom Thumb’ castigates someone for hiding behind a fake name while using one himself.

350. Hardy Har - March 17, 2009

Yes, the giveaway on Olson is how he prattles on about what a working writer he is and everyone else doesn’t know anything. The constant self-reassurance of the gainfully unemployed…who spend their time fishing for trouble on fanboy blogs. You go, Member of the Academy! Never mind that most of the Internet has been sounding in for Ellison. You’re bored, you want to insult someone…easy pickings here, hmm? Never mind that your peers are all somehow better occupied.

351. thorsten - March 17, 2009

@350…

the one who wrote the “Wizard of Oz” sequel?
What makes you think that?

352. Hardy Har - March 17, 2009

Mr. Gerrold, your sentiments about posting ugly things about Harlan Ellison the man certainly ring true, especially the part about denigrating one’s self.

Would that Harlan Ellison followed your words. For while he may be wonderful to his friends, a true pal in need and in word, those same 50 years of craft have also been spent being pretty horrid to just about everyone else, in person and in print. Where there’s smoke there’s fire, and in Harlan’s case it’s an inferno.

353. Nobody of any consequence - March 17, 2009

David Gerrold: You know one side of Harlan Ellison. He’s very kind and generous to his friends. If you cross him, or if he comes to perceive you as an enemy, because, say, you disagreed with him about something, or confronted him on a lie or hypocrisy (with which his life is rife), then he is a petty, spiteful, litigious, grudge-holding monster who takes delight in hurting others. Both of those are valid views of the man. Yours is not the only one, and not even close to the only reality-based one.

This lawsuit is just another one of his drawn out grudges… and litigation the only meaningful work he does anymore. When is the last time he actually wrote something? Or finished a project? He’s a retired writer whose work is out of print and who keeps himself in pin money by suing people who have pissed him off. A sad end for a talented man whose career was ultimately crippled by his personality.

Yes, I have met him. No, I won’t give my name, because he WILL call me in the middle of the night and cuss me out. Possibly also sue me. If that makes me a coward, so be it.

354. Franklin T Rectory - March 17, 2009

Thorsten, with Olson/Thumb the issue at hand is secondary. You could be arguing about Harlan Ellison, Christian Bale, or Genghis Khan. What Josh/Tom really wants to talk about is how much he knows and how much you don’t…and how your opinion is worthless because you don’t work in the industry, like he does.

It’s a constant theme in all his posts, a launching point to belittle people in any blog he visits, so spotting him is easy.

355. RobertZ - March 17, 2009

Mr. Gerrold, your postings have broaden my horizons and I’m looking forward to Part 2 of “Blood and Fire” on Star Trek Phase Two.
Good luck to you and your friend Harlan Ellison.

356. Chris Basken - March 17, 2009

369: “Two soldiers in a blasted, apocalyptic future war are transported back in time and fight it out on the streets of Los Angeles. James Cameron admitted in an interview that he was inspired by the story in question, which was called Soldier, not Demon With A Glass Hand. But don’t let that affect your opinion any…”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demon_With_a_Glass_Hand

I do stand corrected, though. Ellison never actually sued Cameron over either DWaGH or Soldier. Cameron acted on his own to fend off any potential lawsuit.

I guess Cameron was just feeling generous, as there’s no need to fear a plagiarism charge simply by being inspired by someone else’s idea. It’s not like one can own the concept of a robot traveling back in time.

357. krikzil (aka Lixy) - March 17, 2009

Closet — Writers are guaranteed a percentage per their WGA contract. Writers were pretty screwed by the original DVD residual payment scheme as it was based on VHS tapes which cost a lot more to manufacture. (So the writer makes a nickel while the studio clears $10 per DVD sold.) The last WGA strike was over fair payment for new media formats. Oh, and the WGA collects the residuals from the studios and forwards it to the writers.

For toys and stuff, studios are paid license fees by manufacturers. When engaging an actor’s services in a film or television production, studios typically require the right to use the actor’s name and likeness not only in the production, but also for advertising, promotion, and merchandising. Actors must remember to negotiate merchandising rights — I think the standard is 5% but there are all sorts of loopholes (it can be reduced when more than one actor appears). Big stars can and do negotiate a lot more of course. Neither the studio nor the actor makes any $ off promotional things like Burger King cups, etc. It’s just for the exposure.

So it’s not a level playing field to start with and then studios try every trick in the book, hence lawsuits and strikes. The TOS actors made no money off syndication because contracts didn’t foresee it while Paramount made hundreds of millions of dollars. (Shatner & Nimoy only started making money with their movie contracts.) Nimoy sued for merchandising after watching his image be plastered on stuff for a decade (and probably only prevailed cause they wanted him in TMP). How many actors who had long running, hugely sucessful shows have had to sue to get their profit participation?

It takes a Peter Jackson, Nimoy, Peggy Lee or Harlan Ellison to challenge the studio power. “Hollywood” is a strange reality. You have one side of the equation where artists create …which is married to another side that is only interested in profit (Ferengi?!).

358. Capes - March 17, 2009

So late last night, I made a comment about the leather bound, signed copy of the original “City” that Harlan Ellison put out in the mid 90’s. I gave my email address out and said that the book was up for grabs if anyone wanted it. I resented the disdain that Ellison seemed to hold for Trek fans in general and the fact that he felt the $75 he charged at the time was taking the advantage of these same Trek fans who idolize Roddenberry and Shatner and all of those who monopolize the system to their best benefit. I had been a fan of Ellison’s and his work. I was thrown by the amount of negativity that came from his book and felt like an idiot for buying it. (15 years later….still own it. Go figure.)

My copy is no longer for sale. Thank you for the inquiries.

I started rereading the forward in his book last night and simply put, he was crapped on. There is enough evidence to support that fact, just in the 50 or so pages I have reread. I do believe that he successfully comes off as mean spirited either by choice or a cumulative effect from life experiences. Because of that, I don’t empathize with his situation. Does he have a case?…..maybe. Does he have enough of an impact on all of us to evoke a response….yes. Positive or negative, you have to admit people who cause this much comment are always worth having in the discussion. Keeps life interesting….don’t you think?

I have been a Trek fan all my life. I can’t stand the overt negativity of the strongly opinionated. BUT, these fans are all part of what makes all of this interesting. Mr Gerrold has every right to make his point and defend his friend. However, there are two sides to every opinion, and every experience. Mr. Gerrold clearly hasn’t been on that other side of the line where Mr. Ellison is concerned. That doesn’t mean he’s wrong. At worst, he is just biased in defense of his friend.

Mr. Gerrold, on a personal note. I started reading the Chtorr series when I was in the 8th grade. My son starts college in the fall. If you could finish the series before my 50th birthday it would be appreciated. It’s been a good read so far.

Let’s move on…….thank you to the four people that read this far.

John Capes
jcapes@triad.rr.com

359. Harry Ballz - March 17, 2009

Make that five!

360. Cygnus-X1 - March 17, 2009

Oh, man…

That interview was awesome.

Writers are clearly undervalued by studios. They’ve been trying to replace writing with action and special effects over the past decade, if not before.

Pay the writers. Absolutely God-damn, right.

Give’em hell, Harlan!!

361. Tim Brower - March 18, 2009

Back to the suit:

David Gerrold said “The scriptwriter who created the tribbles receives nothing for that reuse of his work. Is this fair? If you go by the letter of the contract, it’s legal. But fair? You decide.”

It sounds from this that from a legal standpoint, Ellison doesn’t have a case. But from a moral one he might, and perhaps his suit will drive the WGA to negotiate fairer contracts in the future for all writers.

However, it seems that Harlan Ellison (or anyone else) would not enter into the expense and anxiety of a lawsuit against Paramount if he didn’t think he’d get something from it, so he might not agree with Gerrold’s perspective.

362. Closettrekker - March 18, 2009

#357—-You’re making the moral case for Harlan Ellison.

I wouldn’t disagree with the notion that, morally, he deserves to be compensated for the continued success of COTEOF.

Where I am not sold (as if it really matters anyway) is on the legality of his claim, based upon the language of a 40+ year-old WGA contract.

It seems to me that the term “publishing rights” is the key. For some reason, I have difficulty believing that a court of law will actually determine that this term should suddenly encompass more than what it literally suggests.

My own (layman’s) interpretation is that “publishing rights” refers specifically to the publication and/or distribution of the story itself (“The City On The Edge Of Forever”)–i.e., shortstory adaptations, screenplay copies, etc.

There is no question that certain developments were unanticipated then. Television itself was still quite young. Videotapes and dvd’s were still decades away, and the idea that —40 years later—someone would be selling Christmas ornaments depicting images from the episode was probably the furthest thing from anyone’s mind. Unfortunately, I think Harlan Ellison is a victim of being a member of that generation of writers.

I think that, legally speaking, there is probably a good bit of difference bewteen what Nimoy went after and what Ellison is pursuing. After all, it was Nimoy’s likeness that was being exploited all that time. Ellison, on the other hand, is seeking compensation for the continued depiction of some other artist’s visual interpretation of a character he created (the Guardian’s image on the ornament, for example).

I’m not saying that he does not *deserve* credit or even compensation—just that it is very likely that the court will not recognize that as his right.

363. MC1 Doug (formerly Doug from Afghanistan) - March 18, 2009

#287: you go, David!

As a writer/photographer myself, I very much appreciate both Mr.Ellison’s and Mr. Gerrold’s belief in standing up for themelves, and in essence, all the other “little guys” out there.

I am always amazed how people are so quick to jump on an issue without knowing all the facts and going off half-cocked. And for some reason, the internet makes this all the easier.

In regards to a number of these potings, perhaps the old advice of writing something, setting it aside for a minute, take a deep breath, reread and revise is in order.

364. krikzil - March 18, 2009

#357—-You’re making the moral case for Harlan Ellison.

Nah, morals sadly don’t really matter when it comes to a) the entertainment biz or 2) the courtroom. It always comes down to the words on the piece of paper. It’s appalling but true. ;(

“Where I am not sold (as if it really matters anyway) is on the legality of his claim, based upon the language of a 40+ year-old WGA contract. It seems to me that the term “publishing rights” is the key. For some reason, I have difficulty believing that a court of law will actually determine that this term should suddenly encompass more than what it literally suggests.”

Well, luckily these contracts are constantly revised — after litigation of course! — to get with the times and intent. I’ll be curious to see if he prevails. I do think there is merit and precedent but one never knows what a judge or jury will think.

“There is no question that certain developments were unanticipated then. Television itself was still quite young. Videotapes and dvd’s were still decades away, and the idea that —40 years later—someone would be selling Christmas ornaments depicting images from the episode was probably the furthest thing from anyone’s mind. ”

This made me chuckle. Gosh, can you imagine even suggesting such a thing back then? Hell the verdict was still out on the success of television! LOL.

“I think that, legally speaking, there is probably a good bit of difference bewteen what Nimoy went after and what Ellison is pursuing. After all, it was Nimoy’s likeness that was being exploited all that time.”

Actually I was surprised they settled with Nimoy. Even today an actor won’t get paid if he didn’t negotiate the rights….which is terribly wrong since studios have all the power over an actor signing up for a show or movie unless they are a Tom Cruise, Harrison Ford and the like. And so many are downright ignorant of contracts — they have stars in their eyes and aren’t thinking about legal ramifications down the road.

Forgive me, but I listened to my mom and stepdad bitch and complain and suffer from 30 years of studio work, and then friends and acquaintances who got into the biz. It’s brutal and soul sucking. I admire anyone — actor, director, writer, etc — who does it and survives, let alone makes a success out of it.

365. JeffK - March 18, 2009

David Gerrold wrote: “Here’s an example a little closer to home. The scriptwriters of the DS9 episode “Trials and Tribble-ations” will receive residuals in perpetuity every time that episode earns money. The scriptwriter who created the tribbles receives nothing for that reuse of his work. Is this fair? If you go by the letter of the contract, it’s legal. But fair? You decide.”

So David, what you are saying is that Robert Heinlein estate should get royalties for tribbles

366. Closettrekker - March 18, 2009

#364—“Actually I was surprised they settled with Nimoy. ”

But as you suggested earlier in this thread, that was probably only due to what leverage he had then—the desire on the studio’s part to get him back in the fold.

367. krikzil - March 18, 2009

Yup. And I’m SO glad they got him back!!!! I was so sad when they were gearing up for that new tv series and he wasn’t party to it. Trek without Spock?? Perish the thought.

368. Mulan - March 18, 2009

For anyone with even a moderate background in psych, its pretty obivious that Mr. Ellison suffers from a host of personality disorders, the most obvious of which is Narcissism (the self-absorbed meglomania) , Borderline Personality Disorder (the tendency to demonize others, especially those who were once friends/colleagues in response to ego sleights) and Depression (probably the cuase for his decades long writer’s block and often manifests itself as bottomless rage). The utterly pointless lawsuit he filed against Fantagraphics a year or so ago effectively destroyed what legacy Mr. Ellison had regarding his support of Free Speech. I remember reading a few years ago he was even publicly supporting an accused child molester simply because the man was a fan of his, not to mention speaking publicly in support of Robert Blake. It’s a shame his friends and fans are too devoted/servileto/frightened of him to intervene on his behalf and protect what little credibility the man has left.

369. File 770 » Blog Archive » Courthouse on the Edge of Forever - March 18, 2009

[...] shows merchandise derived from Ellison’s script. The article also attracted a long, supportive comment by David [...]

370. Updated: Is Harlan Ellison’s Star Trek suit aimed at J.J. Abrams’ movie? | Coded Ink,Inc - March 18, 2009

[...] original Star Trek writer David Gerrold has posted on TrekMovie.com his thoughts on the Ellison lawsuit and the issues at stake. His comments are numbered 222, 225 and [...]

371. Gadfly86 - March 18, 2009

368 – Wow! Mulan, you’re really good at reading minds over the Internet. Quick, tell me how many fingers I’m holding up. Bonus points if you can guess which one.

372. Rus Wornom - March 18, 2009

David Gerrold is right. Harlan is right. Leave good people alone. If you don’t like who they are, fine. Your feelings; your opinion.

But what you feel does not mean that the issue at heart is determined by your emotions, what you believe, or what you believe are the characters of the people involved.

The issue shall be determined by the facts, and by law, and by signed contracts. Star Trek started with Gene Roddenberry — and he opened the sandbox to a lot of creative kids, some of whom were smarter and more creative than he.

Good luck, Harlan, and kick ass. And thanks to David — you’re stand up.

373. Paul B. - March 18, 2009

Mr. Gerrold,

Thanks for your posts!!! I grow tired of small-minded semi-literates bad-mouthing one of the greatest writers of the 20th century (and who knows, maybe the 21st!).

I have been a huge fan of Ellison’s work for more than 20 years, and I am constantly amazed at the depth of humanity to be found in even his most bile-filled writing. Anyone who has read the essay “Ahbhu” (about a much-loved dog) knows that Ellison’s anger springs from a much-wounded heart that feels this world all too deeply. One reading of “I Go to Bed Angry Every Night, And Wake Up Angrier the Next Morning” will show you that Ellison’s anger–no, his FURY–is a response to the vile things that humans often do to each other, because he believes we can be so much better.

As much as I love “City on the Edge of Forever,” it is but a minor footnote in the man’s writing career. Pick up “An Edge in My Voice” to see WHY he has that edge in his voice, or read a copy of “The Harlan Ellison Hornbook” to experience the two essays I mentioned. (Installments 33 and 34)

But don’t spout anti-Ellison nonsense, folks. Love ‘im or hate ‘im, any decent human being should at least RESPECT him for his commitment not only to his craft and business but his passionate commitment to humanity, even at our very worst.

Go, Harlan!

374. Mulan - March 18, 2009

#368: Kind of ignored the part about Ellison trying to bankrupt Fantagraphics with lawsuits, publicly supporting an accused child molester and speaking up on behalf of Robert Blake, didn’t you?
FYI I can “diagnose” Ellison because I’ve known him, both his charming persona and his bile-spewing core-personality, for 2 decades. I am one of the myriad fellow writers he claims solidarity with who somehow managed to threaten his ego by contradicting him. Pathological Narcissists, fyi, over-react to such sleights, as their own self esteem is so fragile they perceive any conflict as you or I would a physical attack and respond with rage/vitriol. Any affront must be annhilated. And they are incapable of truly accepting blame for the consquences of their actions. There is a reason none of his work is available in mass market editions, as opposed to other SF/Fantasy writers of his era/caliber and potential audience. No one wants to deal with him, because there will inevitably be a time when he will turn on the publisher/editors. It’s the same reason there has only been one film (over 30 years old) based on his work. The man is effectively assuring that his legacy will extend no farther than those of us who read his works as teens/young adults in the 1960s & 1970s.

375. Paul B. - March 18, 2009

374 – Harlan has a number of currently available mass market editions, including a 50-year anthology that is available at Barnes and Noble (and I’ve seen it on the shelf, then gone, then back, then gone, so SOMEBODY is buying it).

Your attacks on Harlan may have some merit–he may indeed have psychological issues affecting him, but then again, WHO DOESN’T?

Ellison’s legacy will extend far beyond what you claim. I’ve introduced numerous readers to him in recent years, and I’ll be using some of his essays to teach Freshman Composition next year–and I’m not even trying. Ellison’s work lasts because it is GOOD, he is a wordsmith of unequaled talent among SF authors.

You might be a “fellow writer” of his, but I doubt it. You’re hiding behind a nickname and your comments reek of envy over his skill and success. Let it go. You’re not making a cogent case, and this isn’t the place for armchair psychologists–especially those who proclaim someone a narcissist while trying to inflate their own ego. Irony, anyone?

Go, Harlan!

376. Paul B. - March 18, 2009

374 —

Oh, and another thing (or two):

First, Ellison’s lawsuit against Fantagraphics was settled out of court with neither side winning. Was it frivolous? I don’t know, and I really doubt you do, either. But, okay, maybe it was; Ellison is sometimes overzealous, especially when he has been wronged (or feels he has been).

Second, what’s the problem with defending an ACCUSED child molester? (BTW, please offer evidence of the child molester claim. I cannot find anything besides your “I remember reading” comment.)

IF, as you say, he defended “an accused child molester,” then what’s the problem? This is America, where we are still “innocent until proven guilty,” so Ellison’s defense of an ACCUSED man is perfectly rational and acceptable. Now, if you can show (1) that this really happened and (2) the accused was convicted, you’d have a case.

As for Robert Blake, what’s the problem? Blake was acquitted. Ellison stood up for a friend, and that friend was acquitted. Nothing wrong there.

Please, offer evidence to back up your accusation re: the child molester. Otherwise, it’s as pointless as your Blake complaint.

377. Anthony Pascale - March 19, 2009

OK i have asked people to be civil and to not get personal. I see it is hard for some

Mulan you are warned, your accusations are over the line and your attitude is as well.

378. MC1 Doug - March 19, 2009

Mulan: are you a licensed and practicing psychologist?

If not, please refrain from publicly diagnosing individuals as your comments are opinion only and worth as much as mine.

And if so, please refrain from publicly diagnosing individuals as doing so strikes me as a bit unprofessional, if not unethical.

This site is not a court of law, however, as all too often happens people seem to get convicted in the court of press based not on evidence, but on prevailing emotions… i.e., some folks just can’t help but getting carried away, and as Anthony suggested, “go over the line.”

Why, oh why can we not carry on a conversation in here without poking someone in the proverbial eye?

I, for one, believe Mr. Ellison’s case has merit, but then again, that is my opinion and only worth the .02 that rests in my pocket.

379. Lobster Johnson - March 19, 2009

372: My interest was piqued by Mulan’s claims so, not being a lazy bones, I did a little spelunking on the interwebs all by myself. Turns out Mulan was right about the child molester. Sorry, “accused” child molester.

http://atlanta.creativeloafing.com/gyrobase/the_wizard_of_dragon_con_stands_trial/Content?oid=7799

Yeah, and Robert Blake was “acquitted”. Just like Michael Jackson and OJ (the first time). That doesn’t make anyone defending them less wrong.

380. Paul B. - March 19, 2009

379 — Thanks for providing the link to the story about the accused child molester. And yes, it makes a difference when someone is only accused as opposed to convicted–at least it does in the America where I live.

Kramer, the accused, has been under house arrest since 2000, and the case is finally going to trial this May. So, an accused man has been under arrest for NINE YEARS without a trial–and you think that’s okay?

You think it’s wrong for Ellison, a friend of Kramer’s for 30 years, to defend the man? I don’t get it…

This idea that an accusation is enough to condemn a person goes against everything the American legal system is built upon. The same goes for your dismissal of Blake’s acquittal; that’s the way the system works. Innocent until PROVEN guilty.

I fail to see how it’s wrong for someone to defend a person they believe is innocent. I guess you don’t like the fact that Americans are guaranteed a jury trial, legal defense, and the right to face their accusers–after all, defending an accused person is wrong, isn’t it?

381. Capes - March 19, 2009

#377

Anthony, I have enjoyed taking part in this thread, but maybe it’s time to shut it down. I don’t think there is anything positive left to be gained on this topic. Just my opinion. Thanks.

John Capes

382. David - March 19, 2009

Considering that the WGA feels that Ellison is Interpreting the contract too broadly, can anyone site one precedent to back up his claim?

383. Sage Wiseman - March 22, 2009

Has the WGA made a public statement anent Ellison’s claim? If not, how can you say that the WGA feels Ellison is interpreting the contract too broadly.

384. David - March 22, 2009

From Ellison’s lawsuit;
“26. The WGA told Ellison that the WGA’s own, alleged internal
interpretation of the terms of the WGA narrowly restrict the use of the broad
term publication rights in the MBA only to those circumstances where the
Producers make a virtual word-for-word replication of the teleplay.”

As far as I know ,the WGA has not made any statement concerning Ellison’s lawsuit.

385. Tribbles creator David Gerrold calls on Trek fans to support Harlan Ellison lawsuit | SpaceChannel.TV | Blog - March 25, 2009

[...] Star Trek’s most popular episodes, “The Trouble with Tribbles,” made multiple posts this week at http://trekmovie.com/ coming to the defense of Harlan Ellison, who has taken some Internet heat recently due to his [...]

386. Harlan Who? - July 3, 2009

271 – “It pains me greatly to see science fiction fans attacking science fiction authors.”

Perhaps you should read comments Ellison has made about Star trek fans. I seriously doubt he cares what we think of him.

387. Consumer - September 6, 2009

It seems difficult to argue that the studio does not have both means and motive to use high legal transaction costs to prevent Coasian bargaining and thereby externalize a plaugarism cost onto writers (one can find extensive work on this general topic beginning with the foundational article by economist Ronald Coase – 1960).

->So what else may be done?

1) Some have alleged that there exists a class of writers who hold contracts similar to H.E.’s contract herein discussed.

2) Further, it has been posited that a verdict in favor of H.E. would set legal precedent(s) that would increase the probable value of the entire class of contracts.

If the above 2 points are true, then it would seem reasonable for the entire group of similarly contracted authors (or any subset of them) to form a class and launch a class action suit against their contractual counterpart(y/ies).

Such a class action suit might benefit the group and be more attractive to potentially allied law firms because the broader variety of claimants and plaintiff-evidences might mitigate the risk of an unprofitable ruling. The value proposition of revenue-sharing from such a class might even entice law firms to bid for the opportunity to represent the class.

The primary drawback might be that studios would have an enhanced incentive to collude in an attempt to defeat the class and thereby fix writing prices in a monopsonistic manner. Despite that incentive such an attempt by studios might appear anti-competitive (ergo illegal), hence somewhat unlikely to be overtly manifested.

->What might the results be?

If such a class action were to meet with success in court or the court of public opinion: Circumstances appear to suggest that the net effect would be a more efficient Coasian outcome that would prevent externalization of plaugarism costs by studios.

->Who would ultimately pay?

Given that demand for movies (i.e. luxury goods) is relatively elastic, one would expect the studios (and not the moviegoing public) to bear most of the cost(s) in the form of reduced profit margins.

388. frelnc - September 26, 2009

A contract is a contract. He should get paid.

That said, however, Ellison typifies the very worst “writer as arrogant boor” of the genre. He’s petulant, deeply self-involved, arrogant, a flagrant misogynist and a bully.

He’s also a master of his craft. Since his very young years and his brilliant first novels there’s never been a question that he’s one of the best. At writing.

As a human being, however, he leaves much to be desired. He’s an egomaniac who talks down to and about fans, is grossly inappropriate in his behavior toward women, and sees himself as the be-all and end-all of the craft. Not so. There are many others writers in the genre whose work is on a par with and in fact may eclipse his.

His willingness to take on the powers that be may well help other writers in the end, but don’t be too quick to applaud him. With Ellison you can be certain that altruism was low on his list of priorities when he began his crusade – and in fact the impact on his fellow writers almost certainly was not a motivator. This isn’t about fairness across the board, nor about breaking new ground in writer’s rights. Like Ellison himself said – “it’s about the money.” Take the man at his word.

389. Walt D - September 21, 2010

Ellison has always been proficient at melodrama and self promotion. I figure he’s also expressing his cultural background which values money over almost everything else. So he fit right in In Hollywood, for multiple reasons. If I say anything more I’ll be accused of anti-semitism.

But for me he’s always been an ex-punk who wrote florid prose all too often, reveled in self-righteously punching out a producer and once, an SF reviewer undeserved of the egotistical attack, and in general, has shown no class.

As to his famous lawsuit against the producers of Terminator on the basis of his story ‘Soldier”, I once discovered in an old pulp the exact Soldier plotline: two soldiers hurled back in time, seeking each other. Perhaps coincidence, but nonetheless I always wondered whether Ellison had read that story before writing his, He had no basis for claiming theft of an idea that was not original to him and there WAS prior art. In that case, his suing Cameron would have been a colossal piece of chutzpah by a loud-mouthed arrogant jackass. But who knows. Ellison never lies or exaggerates, does he? I’ve met him a couple of times. He struts and poses.

390. Ellis Adduci - April 21, 2011

Hmm it seems like your website ate my first comment (it was extremely long) so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I submitted and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog. I too am an aspiring blog writer but I’m still new to everything. Do you have any suggestions for beginner blog writers? I’d genuinely appreciate it.

TrekMovie.com is represented by Gorilla Nation. Please contact Gorilla Nation for ad rates, packages and general advertising information.