We recently had a “conversation” (via email) with Craig James, who operates the ISA website, regarding the reprinting of ads from other sites. He was upset and angry at the picture we painted regarding ISA and similar newsletter websites who promote “writing gigs”. He challenged the assertion that ISA lifts posting from other web sites and reprints them on their own, as if they cultivated the job opportunity through their own hard work. He also denied holding these job opportunities “ransom” by demanding payment to their service prior to receiving the job contact information; information previously available for “free” on the originating job site.
This was a few of his responses (edited for space, not substance):
Re: The “lifting” of previously published posts: “Yes, we post gigs we find on Mandy, but not until we email the person who posted them there and request that they create an account on our site. They MUST create an account before we’ll post their gig, with their permission.”
When asked to provide one piece of evidence that they actually receive permission to re-post from EITHER the poster or the originating web site, Mr. James refused. Just because you claim it, doesn’t make it true. My claims are validated not ONLY through reams of printed out ads that were lifted from original sites, but also by his own admission.
It also doesn’t explain why, when this was first brought to the attention of the public, both ISA and SSU began re-writing the words of the ad in their attempt to avoid detection. If they are doing this with permission and with innocent intent, why, then, go through that trouble?
Re: The claim that ISA “holds information hostage”: “Yes some members have earlier access to them as a benefit to their Connect membership but no one on the site is required to pay to see gigs. All gigs, paid, unpaid or deferred are available to ALL members within 5 days of posting. Some are immediately available but no one ever has to pay to submit. And to help offset the cost for all the time we spend legitimately finding gigs on the internet we hold some of those gigs for 5 days before ALL members can see them.”
Once again, we have an admission in his own words. The claim was never about holding the “job posting” hostage. The assertion was that they withhold the information that is needed to RESPOND to the posted ad. He openly admits to doing this, but clarifies that it is for “five days only”. In my opinion, if you withhold contact information from a job seeker- especially information readily available for FREE- and your intent is to SELL this contact information (in ISA case, by signing up for Connect membership), it is unethical. If you cultivate your OWN leads and want to sell that information to a subscriber base, then that is a legitimate service. This is clearly not the case here.
Re: The assertion that his previous partner runs a similar, unethical business: “I have no relationship with Jacob Stuart. He runs Screenwriting Utopia and I have no interest in him, his company, his methods, etc. I don’t know him…”
We have been told emphatically that they once worked together in the past, and in fact, Mr. James actually fired Stuart. Either he has issues with his memory, or he or Stuart is lying. It doesn’t really matter either way, as they are both unethical.
The bottom line is this; you can choose to sign up for either ISA or SSU newsletters and pay the annual rate for information readily available on the net, or you can avoid these types of “services” who prey off of the hard work, time and resources (money) that other sites use to actually mind these job leads to provide for YOU, the screenwriter. If you use services that take this information and, in essence, claim it as their own, you are helping to perpetuate the theft of this hard work, time and resources.
These guys are even advertising “success stories” when the position is filled- even if they had nothing to do with filling the position! How sleazy can one get?
We say support the original sites that advertise these leads, and go out and scour the internet yourself and find these leads. Most of these jobs are removed (illegally) from sites such as Craigslist (Los Angeles/New York), Mandy.com, Elance.com, Mooncasting.com, DoneDealPro message boards, Ink Tip, and hundreds of other sources, including almost every prodco website out there.
One can provide this type of service ethically, as we do, if they choose to do so. On the rare occasion that one of my companies comes across an ad that we feel could be of benefit to our network of writers, we share that information, but we ALWAYS encourage the writer to respond to the post via the original posting site- Craigslist or Ink Tip, whatever. Most of our job postings and all of our script search announcements are as a direct result of our own networking. WE are providing the search on behalf of our client. In most cases, we do this free of charge to both the client AND the screenwriter.
For an industry that cares about the protection of our own written material and intellectual property to such a degree that many of us register and copyright all of our own written work, to willingly or unknowingly engage in exactly this type of conduct is hypocritical, as well as illegal. If anyone is willing to go to these lengths to lift posts and claim credit for “filling” the job positions, can you really trust them with your SCRIPT when they request script submissions? How about your personal ID, or even financial information (credit card, Pay Pal account) if you sign up for the newsletters?
The choice is yours.
*(the two graphic media additions were found on line through “Google” search. They were uncredited).