Cover: Writing for Hire: Unions, Hollywood, and Madison Avenue, from Harvard University PressCover: Writing for Hire in HARDCOVER

Writing for Hire

Unions, Hollywood, and Madison Avenue

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Product Details


$40.00 • £32.95 • €36.00

ISBN 9780674971400

Publication Date: 10/17/2016


320 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches


This is an incisive work of scholarship and historical reconstruction that not only captures the dilemma of authorship in corporatized film, TV, and advertising but also demonstrates the central importance of good old-fashioned trade unionism in defending the creativity, status, and income of even the most renowned writers. For any ‘knowledge worker’ vexed about his or her place in the gig economy, Catherine Fisk’s eye-opening book is essential reading.—Nelson Lichtenstein, author of A Contest of Ideas: Capital, Politics, and Labor

Drawing on previously unexplored archival sources, Catherine Fisk has produced a rich and rewarding comparison of two parallel cultures of professional writers doing similar work in different industries. Fisk’s book combines a captivating narrative with insightful legal, economic, and social analysis of how writers, movie studios, and advertising agencies grappled with issues of attribution in the formative decades of radio, film, and television.—R. Anthony Reese, University of California, Irvine School of Law

Opening the archives of firms, guilds, and corporations, Catherine Fisk uncovers the stories of dozens of writer-employees and the rapidly changing parameters of their work. Madison Avenue and Hollywood appear as we’ve never seen them before—as twin sectors of the work-for-hire economy separated at birth by divergent practices of attribution, recognition, and unionization. Writing for Hire makes labor history an indispensable means of understanding copyright in the twentieth century and beyond.—Paul K. Saint-Amour, author of Tense Future: Modernism, Total War, Encyclopedic Form

Catherine Fisk has written an immensely readable historical study of the legal and social significance of creative authorship in the American entertainment and advertising industries. Writing for Hire provides clarity and insight on questions of authorship, intellectual property, and unionization—all of which are essential concerns for anyone working in or studying the creative industries today.—Miranda Banks, author of The Writers: A History of American Screenwriters and Their Guild

An illuminating work for everyone interested in histories of ‘the author,’ of intellectual property, of unionization, and of Hollywood. Fisk tells a largely unknown story of labor success. And along the way, she uses her imaginative and extensive research to offer something close to an ethnography of contracting behavior and the cultural underpinnings of contracting in twentieth-century America.—Hendrik Hartog, Princeton University

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