Creators Deserve a Guild. Just Not This One.

It’s Hot Labor Day weekend y’all, and there’s no better time to check in to see how all the recent unionization efforts have been going. SAG and the WGA are on still on strike against the AMPTP, which has countered their proposal for renegotiations with a resounding wet fart, hiring publicity firm Levinson Group to have the most sincerely embarrassing profile of its president Carol Lombardi placed in The New York Times

Maybe it was one of the “8 Mile,” mom’s spaghetti self-owns, and the AMPTP (which in this scenario is Eminem) is about to deliver a devastating blow by calling out SAG (in this world, Anthony Mackie) for having real nice parents. That’s…vaguely what happens, right? It’s been awhile.

Erstwhile, California’s hotel worker strike has been rife with cracked skulls and more than one ruined wedding. Taylor Swift, unfortunately, did not cancel the LA leg of her Eras tour in solidarity. On Monday, however, 11,000 Angelenos walked off the job as part of 24-hour protest by SEIU Local 721 in an Unfair Labor Practice strike. The SEIU represents 95,000 employees of California’s public work sector,  including sanitation workers, engineers, mechanics and traffic officers. 

I guess when you’re a Swiftie paying up to $33k a ticket to hear “Karma” from mother, you might be too distracted to recognize the irony.

As for creators…well, apparently there’s something for us now as well! Possibly? Sketchily? Kristin Snyder ran us through the hype over last week’s launch of the Creators Guild of America (CGA), which claims to be “the official 501(c)(6) non profit organization that protects and promotes the interests of digital creators” and also the IMDB for digital credits.

The CGA is not the first and will certainly not be the last attempt at the Sysphysian-seeming effort of wrangling digital creators into a formal collective bargaining power, and we support all of them. But we’ve got to tell you, there are some bright red flags with this CGA venture, whose sponsors include Adobe, Beacons and something called Mosaic, “a creative ledger of projects and work that is verified by social proof.”

Social proof, you say? How could you…  What exactly would the… I agree with mom, very psychologically taut.

Mosaic, a free service that anyone can join, is the lynchpin to the benefits offered by the CGA, which costs $99 a year to join after you meet two of the following eligibility requirements AND be sponsored by an existing member:

  • 15K followers across 3 or less platforms
  • 25K or more monthly active website visits
  • 1 verified platform (excluding Twitter)
  • Paid activations valued over $15K (1 year or less)
  • 5 confirmed creative credits 

Confirmed creator credits, again….what does that mean? Confirmed how? Through social proof? Will aspiring members need to prove their confirmed credits through Mosaic in order to gain access to a guild whose only concrete benefit so far is… accreditation through Mosaic?

Responding to Passionfruit’s inquiries, CGA said that “Accreditation will recognize content and bodies of work that qualify under the CGA’s code of credits (CCC) to be announced very soon.” In response to inquiries about whether they’ll provide legal services for creators, they responded “We will share programming provided by legal experts, to answer commonly asked questions, such as basic contract law, copyright, and other ownership matters.” Since the majority of creators concerns revolve around DMCA takedown notices, would CGA work on behalf of creators to prevent studios from bulk-claiming their content? “We are identifying and prioritizing all areas of advocacy for our Board and Advisory Council to pursue.”

In their FAQ section, the CGA reveals that it’s not a union, nor is it union-adjacent: “Creators Guild does not act as a collective bargaining unit, or claim any of the legal privileges accorded to unions.” This despite one of their listed member benefits as “leverage our collective resources, sample contracts, and paid averages to optimize ownership and fair compensation.” What else is a collective bargaining unit if not leveraging collective resources…to optimize fair compensation? 

Instead, the CGA is “a non-profit professional service organization” who “represent a membership of creators across the entire supply chain of the creator economy.”

That last point is important, since the CGA offers membership tiers for Marketing and “Makers.” Those are “founders, developers, interactive, and producers” who meet two of the following criteria:

  • $500K in venture capital raised from institutional funds
  • $100K per year in gross revenue (USD or ETH)
  • 50K streams, downloads or installations
  • Github repo submissions
  • 5 confirmed creative credits

This could all still be above board, and the CGA told Passionfruit, the makers category is “intended to recognize the entrepreneurs and developers who build applications and businesses within the creator economy. Meanwhile, the marketers “represent digital marketing professionals behind the camera” like social media managers.

Which makes the CGA’s function more like that of a job fair or social mixer for a variety of business endeavors, rather than an actual guild organized by tradespeople who practice the same craft. Their board members include representatives from Disney and Microsoft, not exactly the most labor-friendly businesses out there, to put it mildly.

Then there’s CGA Vice President Jason Davis, who confirmed to Passionfruit that he’s still working as the Head of Talent for Triller. If you aren’t familiar, Triller is a controversial social video app currently attempting to go public despite the manymanymany lawsuits they’ve had to settle around non-payments – specifically to black creators. Meanwhile, they’re throwing lavish parties during COVID and gifting cars to big-name influencers. They’ve been accused more than once of falsely inflating the numbers of users and have tried (and failed) to sue creators for copyright infringement, in one case over a podcast joke. The company also handed ex-president Donald Trump an “obscene” $2.5 million in 2021 to sit at the desk and call a boxing match for its subsidiary, Triller Fight Club.

So look, while we support and applaud any good-faith attempt to advocate, as CGA claims, “to ensure best practices, fair treatment, and industry transparency,” we also call on them and any other professional service to be transparent about what industry they actually represent.

Creators deserve a real guild…it’s just not this one.

This post originally appeared as part of the Passionfruit newsletter. Sign up here.

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