Hollywood Writers Walk Out Over Net Royalties

Hollywood writers went on strike at midnight Monday, at odds with the producers over several issues which included several disagreements on compensation for so-called "new media" royalties.

The disagreement and strike essentially brings to a halt production on nearly every current television show on the air. Depending on the length of the walkout, it could put network's fall schedules in jeopardy, especially for those which the full season has not yet been written.

Writers last struck in March 1988, and the walkout lasted until August of that year. Networks were forced to delay fall season programming as a result, and it actually helped spur the first unscripted reality TV shows, such as Cops.

Since the 1988 strike, the media landscape has certainly changed. Union leaders are rankled by the rise of internet downloads, feeling that the 1985 contract clause which covers royalties earned from downloads is insufficient.

Most of the disagreements between the two sides fall within the realm of new media. Writers are upset that they have no jurisdiction over new media writing, the payment of internet downloads at the DVD rate, and no residuals for streaming videos.

in addition, producers want a promotional clause that would let them stream videos without the need to pay any residuals, as well as allow a "window" of free reuse on the Internet, which writers feel is objectionable.

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers shot back at the Writers Guild, calling the actions irresponsible. "We made an attempt at meeting them in a number of their key areas including Internet streaming and jurisdiction in New Media. Ultimately, the guild was unwilling to compromise on most of their major demands," AMPTP president Nick Counter said.

Picketing began today in front of several major studios and networks, including Sony and Warner Bros. in Los Angeles, and at Rockefeller Plaza in New York. Guild members were expected to spend at least 20 hours on the picket lines.

With the Writers Guild striking, producers must now work quickly to avoid another strike by the Screen Actors Guild and Directors Guild, both of which have expiring agreements in June of next year.

If no agreement can be reached, all three unions are expected to pull their resources which could mean a complete work stoppage in Hollywood.

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