Actors And Studios In Dispute Over Online Clips

    May 13, 2008

Negotiations between the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the major studios stalled last week after the two parties could not reach an agreement on how actors should be compensated for online clips.

Studios want to distribute clips of old TV shows and movies without actors’ permission and pay them a flat fee instead of paying each actor individually. The actors union is against the measure.

"What they’re asking us to do is erase 50 years of our customs and practice," SAG President Alan Rosenberg, told Reuters.

According to comScore, 134 million U.S. Internet users view online videos each month, with YouTube bringing in 80 million unique visitors monthly.

The SAG contract rules state that each actor in a clip must receive the "day-player" minimum of $759, even if the clip is only a few seconds in length. SAG maintains that actors are afraid of losing control of their images, particularly when advertising and video mash-ups are involved.

"We’re willing to help them build this new business, but they don’t take our concerns seriously," Rosenberg said.

The studios reason that actors’ work is currently widely exploited without consent or compensation due to Internet piracy. The studios argue that actors can only benefit from clips licensed and distributed by the industry.

The clips disagreement is an issue unique to actors and was not covered in contracts settled earlier this year with directors and striking screenwriters.

Negotiations between the studios and SAG are scheduled to start again at the end of this month. The current contract covers 120,000 film and TV actors and ends June 30.