It took years for Hollywood’s guilds to hammer out issues pertaining to credits on film and TV projects. It’s standard, for instance, to see a writer’s credit just before the director’s on a TV show. The order of those title cards is strictly regulated.
But in the area of new media, particularly CD-ROMs and Internet sites, credits are a growing problem, according to some multimedia mavens.
“There’s no industry standard,” maintains Beverly Hills attorney Nancy Derwin, who has negotiated deals between developers and carriers such as America Online and the Microsoft Network. While Hollywood’s guilds have jurisdiction over whose credit goes where in a film’s title sequence, no such rules exist for digital media. In effect, the company paying for the work gets final say, although an increasing number of attorneys and agents are going to bat for their clients when it comes to getting credit.
“Historically, the culture of the Internet was one of anonymity,” Derwin said. “It wasn’t about getting credit. People went out of their way not to take credit. But with the convergence of Hollywood and the Internet, we’re seeing Hollywood issues infiltrating the online world. Credit is becoming one of the most heavily negotiated issues on the Internet.”
William Morris agent John Mass says the problem also exists for CD-ROM developers. One of his clients, Rainbow Studios, developed a title for Microsoft called “Deadly Tide.” When it came time to decide about credit on the disc, Mass found himself having to cut some additional deals.
Haggling with Microsoft
“Microsoft was willing to give on certain issues, but not on others,” recalls Mass. For instance, Rainbow Studios won the right to put its logo on the back of the CD-ROM packaging. However, Mass said, his client “gave up a lot on the back end.”
There are other horror stories. Recently, a Web company was hired by a studio’s advertising agency to develop a site for a particular film. The ad agency agreed to list the developer’s credit on the site. Once the site was completed, however, the studio refused to allow the developer’s information to appear.
“It was important that they receive credit, because that’s how developers and writers get business,” said a source.
The studio eventually launched the site without any prominent mention of the developer. A few weeks later, after the movie’s theatrical run was nearly over, the studio allowed the site to be changed, adding an upfront credit for the developer.
“Now that more TV and literary talent are crossing over to the Internet, credits become important,” said Mark Evans, an agent at International Creative Management. “We’ve been doing deals with AOL Greenhouse (a part of the service targeted at bringing new talent to AOL), and they didn’t emphasize credits to the extent I’d like them to. But once the talent creating these projects become more of a household name, credits will appear at the beginning of a home page.”
No free lunch
But at this point, it still requires some effort to get a client’s name above the online marquee.
“It’s not something anyone’s going to give you,” says Evans.
But John Mass’ New York-based colleague at WMA Jonathan Trumper contends that credits aren’t a serious problem when negotiating a deal.
“The only issue with credits is how prominently someone’s name is displayed,” Trumper said. “We had a situation recently on a CD-ROM project where we had to sort out whether it was based on a certain person’s idea, or whether it was created by that person – we had to determine who did what at what point in time. But it wasn’t really a debate. We were just trying to sort things out.”
“Credit is really a minor issue,” he added. “The question of who owns what – the intellectual property issue – that’s a much bigger problem.”