(NOTE: Originally published June 12, 2013, this post was re-edited for public display, Sept. 20, 2013. The IAG is no longer my interest group at the NYC chapter of the Graphic Artists Guild, and I am no longer an officer, volunteer, or member of the Graphic Artists Guild.)
It’s obvious that most Guild members are far more concerned about those things that provide a direct benefit to their careers, such as creative and business skills training, than about a lot of stuff that falls under the broad heading of “advocacy.” It’s entirely understandable; putting out better promotions brings in more work; enlarging skill sets lands better jobs; sharpening business practices really, really matters to your bottom line. What’s happening in the Copyright law, Trade negotiation, and Tax Policy Jungles of Washington, D.C. is both extraordinarily complex and of indirect and uncertain consequence to your daily survival as a creative professional. Who the heck can spare the time to make sense of it? Particularly time that’s already stretched thin just trying to keep up on all the stuff having a direct impact?
Whether or not it matters all depends on what you think the Guild’s mission should be. If you think the Guild should be your voice and advocate, dealing with what’s happening in the jungle so that you can concentrate on your daily critical tasks, then it does matter.
That brings us to current news and events involving the Copyright Alliance, an organization that the Guild supports both financially and by tacit endorsement as a member of the Alliance. If you can find a few minutes, please read about what the lobbyists for the Copyright Alliance (a.k.a., the Nickles Group, LLC) have been up to.
As the company moves to Internet-based telephone service, it’s looking to shed regulatory obligations that benefit low-income Americans.
Leticia Miranda, June 10, 2013. The Nation Magazine.
“Since 2010, AT&T has been waging a deregulation campaign in several states across the country while aiming to move its traditional, wired telephone services to Internet Protocol (IP)-based services, which transmit voice communications digitally. With the help of corporate “bill mill” the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and support from companies like AT&T, state legislators have introduced a series of “model” bills aimed at preventing regulation of IP-based services in more than thirty states across the country, from Idaho to Georgia, Texas to New Hampshire.”
How are the regulatory changes that AT&T seeks bad for professional creators? It takes sorting out and understanding a good-sized chunk of the economics and the history of telecommunications regulations. (Sure, like you have a whole lot of time to dedicate to that.) Essentially what’s happening is that AT&T and the other major players in the communications game are questing for that ultimate goal in our not-quite free market system; the one really big principle that you were never taught in Economics 101, and that’s never, ever uttered by the serious people in discussions about economics: Providing the Least Amount of Goods and Services, While Charging the Most Possible.
As creators of content, our interests are served by having a broad and vibrant market in which to sell our products and services. Unfortunately, the major telecom corporations are whittling away at regulations that preserve competition and keep costs under control, harming our base of potential clients and customers. The terms we’ll need to agree to and the rates we’ll receive for our services are going to suffer in a market controlled by only a handful of corporations, who are working hard at maximizing their profits at the expense of service. This is the reason SOPA was such a bad deal for creators; it would have placed legal weapons into the hands of the largest telecoms, enabling them to suppress their competition. Reducing or eliminating net neutrality policies would likewise suppress competition, cut down on the number of our potential clients, and raise costs for the mere transmission of content. Dollars wasted on excessive transmission and access fees to phone and internet service are dollars not going to content creators. Powerful telecoms using their lobbying muscle to rake in bigger profits while being allowed to provide service of lesser quality is not in our interest.
The Nation article points to one element of AT&T’s strategy, which is to shut out many consumers that are in rural or poor regions that are harder to provide service to, and are therefore less profitable. From our standpoint, though, these are potential content consumers that are left out of the marketplace. If you find the AT&T article too indirect and tiresome, however, or you need more background first, I highly recommend that you view the video available online of Bill Moyers’ interview of Susan Crawford, to get a clearer view of what’s going on.
Moyers&Company. February 8, 2013.
The lobbyists that represent the Copyright Alliance, who are supposedly looking out for the interests of “creative individuals,” are all from the Nickles Group LLC with only one small exception. Simultaneously while representing the Alliance, the Nickles people are also representing: AT&T, COMCAST, and the MPAA, Motion Picture Association of America. Yup, the same interests that are frequently doing bad things to the marketplace you depend upon.
(NOTE: Originally published Feb. 07, 2013, this post was re-edited for public display, Sept. 20, 2013. The IAG is no longer my interest group at the NYC chapter of the Graphic Artists Guild, and I am no longer an officer, volunteer, or member of the Graphic Artists Guild.)
The following is why I’m of the opinion that a serious independent audit of the Guild’s finances is overdue. A particularly stunning eye-opener in the LM-2 data is the amount of money listed under “Other Disbursements.” Our 2011 LM-2 Annual Financial Report details expenses such as rent, employee salaries, copier leasing, newsletter design, printing, and etc. There are, however, “Other Disbursements” entries found in the General Overhead, Union Administration, and Political Activities schedules, showing that in just 2011 alone, $217,000 was spent with no accompanying information whatsoever on payee or purpose. That’s over one-quarter of all the money spent by the Guild in 2011. I’m thinking that’s a lot of paper clips, coffee filters, or similar miscellaneous expenses that you’d expect might be categorized as “Other.”
My graphic breakdown of the 2011 LM-2 will save you some time in bringing the whole picture into focus.