In her persuasively argued study, Catherine L. Fisk examines the differences in authorship across advertising, radio, television, and film. In advertising, acknowledged as a learned profession, the copywriter is nameless. What matters are the client’s interests, not the copywriter’s identity. As the agencies created radio programming in the 1930s and 1940s for soaps and dramatic programs, the writer emerged as an employee who deserved to be credited for his or her contribution, although initially there was some reluctance to identify soap opera writers for fear of destroying “the illusion that the stories were real” (105). Then there was the matter of repeating a show or adapting it for another medium like film.

A one-time airing was one thing; reuse was something else. Reuse meant additional compensation, which in turn required a bargaining agent, the Radio Writers Guild, to prevent writers from...

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