AromaKat, lots of artists in NY, LA, Seattle, Chicago etc, who are called freelancers, work project-to-project for different studios in their locations. They may be 3D artists, compositors, colorists, riggers, animators or type designers. The projects they work on may be a few weeks long or a few months, or they may work on several projects back-to-back at the same studio. Often this situation is also called perma-lancing. Many of these "freelancers" are being called independent contractors and made to sign agreements stating as much, even though the conditions of their employment would really suggest otherwise. They don't get taxes taken out, they get paid on 1099s and they are convinced that they don't have any protection from labor laws, being able to get unemployment, organize, etc. So that's what I'm talking about.
I'm not really talking about someone who has a full-time job and does "freelance" gigs on the side in their off-hours (BTW, I call that moonlighting). And I'm not talking about independent artists like me, who sometimes work with other independent artists (offsite) and contract with them for 3D or music composition or sound design, etc. Those situations are often called the same thing - freelancing - as the situation I'm describing, which is really just a series of temporary employment situations. And that may be where the confusion comes from.
The reason I brought up the definitions of Employee vs. Independent Contractor was because Ouef was stating that these folks shouldn't be considered employees, and consequently wouldn't have the "right" to get unemployment. Again, as you point out, it depends on the nature of the relationship, but in the situation I believe Oeuf was talking about - absolutely, they're employees. And I think they should absolutely be able to file for unemployment.
I think lots of inexperienced and eager artists are just happy to take any job offered them, so they're not picky about the terms offered. Sure they can complain individually, or file forms with the IRS, but that can be a scary thing for artists to do when they more concerned about just getting the next gig.