An 'Office' Strike Mystery

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Over at the Digital Media Law Blog, Jonathan Handel is following a bit of a mystery. Dwight Schrute, one of the (fictional) characters on NBC show The Office, has a blog on NBC.com called “Shrutespace.”

 The blog was updated on November 22, well after the writer’s strike began. The question Handel asks is: Is writing for a blog on a struck show’s Web site counted as violating the strike?

The answer, at least according to a WGA spokesperson, is yes:

“Can a WGA member write for [a struck-company owned TV show] blog during the strike? 

I spoke with WGA spokesman Gregg Mitchell, and his answer was an emphatic ‘No.’ A TV show’s fictional blog is just ‘an extension of the same show,’ he stated, and the writing is therefore prohibited.”

Handel argues that a show’s blog, surprisingly, would legally fall under the category of programming:

“In one place, the Sideletter refers to ‘literary material written for the Internet or other similar delivery systems.’ The term ‘literary material,’ in turn, is defined in the MBA (Art. I.A.5) to include, among other things, ‘dialogue, … sketches, … narrative synopses, routines, and narrations.’ This would seem to encompass blog entries.

Also, the Sideletter refers to ‘audiovisual entertainment programs made for the Internet of the type that have traditionally been covered under the WGA Basic Agreement as well as other types of programs made for the Internet.’ I’ve added the emphasis to make the point: in new media, the Guild’s concerns are not limited to audiovisual programming.”

So this begs the question, who is writing Dwight Shrute’s blog? Is it a staffer? Freelancer? Was it something actor Rainn Wilson or a writer on the show finished before the strike started? Unless the blog post was written before the strike began, this would have to be considered scab work.

So any ideas about how it got there? Anybody? Bueller? Bueller?

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