CIPP Seminars 2012-2013 – Professor Matt Stahl – Property in the Job or Property in the Work? The Hollywood Talents Guilds, Technological Displacement, and the Development of the Re-Use Right


Matt Stahl is an Assistant Professor of Information and Media Studies at the University of Western Ontario, where he is also a member of the Digital Labour Research Group; his PhD in Communication was awarded by the University of California, San Diego in 2006. Stahl’s research focuses on creative labour in the cultural industries. His forthcoming monograph, Unfree Masters: Recording Artists and the Politics of Work (Duke University Press, 2013) examines the representation and regulation of recording artists’ creative labour and property.



In the 1940s, struggling to resist their technological displacement by recording and network broadcast technologies, members of two American talent guilds hit upon a new tactic to preserve security and bargaining power. First the American Federation of Radio Artists (through aggressive bargaining) then the American Federation of Musicians (through pugilistic boycotts) compelled their employers to pay additional fees for the reuse of recordings of their performances. These payments were demanded as a means to ameliorate the effects of the circulation of recordings on the markets for the performers’ labour. However, in the ensuing decade, as additional guilds sought to establish similar “reuse” rights (also known as “residual rights”), the meaning of this practice changed from a remedy for the loss of employment to a royalty-like sharing of profits between employers and quasi-authorial creative workers. This individualistic understanding is enshrined today, and reuse rights remain the centerpiece of collective bargaining struggles in Hollywood. The ongoing historical and theoretical research represented by this presentation is intended to result in an account of the development and conceptual transformation of this unusual genre of what Catherine Fisk calls “private intellectual property rights,” and in an analysis that will help explain creative cultural labour’s peculiarities and (it is to be hoped) invigorate the efforts of media workers to cultivate solidarity and enhance and protect their bargaining power.

Coffee, cookies, and fruits will be served.

This content has been updated on August 16, 2015 at 20:36.