Monday, November 12, 2007

Studios state their side of labor dispute in ads

LOS ANGELES — Producers took out full-page ads in Monday's trade papers to state their case in the strike by Hollywood writers.

In ads in Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, studios emphasized that writers already get paid when TV episodes and films are downloaded from Internet stores such as Apple Inc.'s iTunes.

The ads from the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers also stated that writers get a fee, or "residual," when episodes or films are rented online.

Headlined Setting the Record Straight, the ads offered the group's most extensive public statement on Internet payments since the strike began on Nov. 5.

The Writers Guild of America did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The union resumed its pickets Monday at studios.

Writers do not get paid when TV shows are streamed for free on advertising-supported network sites such as or

But the ads said a proposal to pay writers for that streaming was on the table when talks broke off on Nov. 4.

Producers said payments from digital rentals and downloads were part of the more than $260 million in "record-breaking residuals" paid to members of the Writers Guild of America's West Coast branch in 2006.

Producers said the figure came from the union's 2006 annual report, which didn't break down what percentage of the residuals came from digital distribution.

Writers have said they were fighting for a percentage of revenue from advertising-supported streaming. They also want a larger percentage of revenue from downloading, arguing that digital distribution is reducing payments that used to come from networks repeating TV episodes on broadcast channels.

The union has invited actors to join its picket lines on Tuesday in Los Angeles. Members of the union's East Coast branch were expected to stage a protest on Wall Street.

Both branches sent a letter of support Monday to striking Broadway stagehands.

Members of Local One of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees went on strike Nov. 10 against Broadway producers, shuttering some of New York's most popular plays and musicals.

"Just as you have stood with us in our current strike against the motion picture and television studios and networks, so, too, do we stand with you as you seek the fair and respectful contract that you have earned and deserve," the letter states.