Friday, November 2, 2007

Writers Say They Will Go On Strike

Television and movie screen writers said Thursday they will go on strike for the first time in nearly 20 years in a dispute over royalties.

Four writers told The Associated Press that Writers Guild of America President Patric Verrone made the announcement in a closed-door session, causing loud cheers from the crowd.

"There was a unified feeling in the room. I don't think anyone wants the strike, but people are behind the negotiation committee," writer Dave Garrett said.

Their contract expired at midnight Wednesday after talks ended abruptly, with both sides saying they were still far apart on the key issue of raising payment from the sale of DVDs and extending payment to the distribution of TV shows and film over the Internet.

While both sides have withdrawn other proposals since talks began in July, neither has budged on what the Writers Guild of America termed “the hated DVD formula,” which pays writers pennies on the sale of home video.

Writers had sought to boost that payment. They wanted the richer formula applied equally to the sale of digital downloads. They were also seeking a piece of advertising dollars generated when TV shows and films are streamed for free over the Internet.

Writers also want to be paid for creating original content for the Internet, cell phones or other digital devices.

Producers maintain that profits from DVDs largely offset the increased cost of production. They also don’t want to commit themselves to higher payment for digital distribution at a time when business models are still uncertain.

“The magnitude of that proposal alone is blocking us from making any further progress,” J. Nicholas Counter, president of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, told writers Wednesday.

“We cannot move further as long as that issue remains on the table. In short, the DVD issue is a complete roadblock to any further progress.”

The issue is key to the industry because actors also are expected to fight for a larger share of DVD and digital revenue when their contract expires in June.

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