Hollywood actors and studios clash over Internet clips

Mon May 12, 2008 6:38pm EDT
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By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Getting Hollywood actors paid for their smallest performances -- video clips on the Internet -- is shaping up as one their biggest sticking points in stalemated contract negotiations with major studios.

Whether actors must give consent for snippets of their film and TV work to be displayed online, and how much they should earn for them, was the No. 1 disputed issue cited by the Screen Actors Guild after labor talks broke down last Tuesday.

Studios want to freely distribute YouTube-style clips of old TV shows and movies without seeking actors' permission and pay them a flat fee rather than bargain on a price with each performer individually.

The actors' union staunchly opposes that move.

"What they're asking us to do is erase 50 years of our customs and practice," SAG President Alan Rosenberg said in a recent interview.

The debate is the latest example of how the economics of traditional media are being upended by the growing popularity of video-sharing Web sites like YouTube, and how audiences' tastes and habits are being transformed in the process.

According to Internet marketing research firm comScore, 134 million Americans view online videos each month, with YouTube alone attracting 80 million unique visitors monthly.

The bulk of what they see consists of homemade footage and unauthorized clips of TV shows and movies, some of it blended into video "mash-ups" like the popular "Brokeback to the Future" parody trailer poking fun at the "Back to the Future" movies and the gay cowboy romance "Brokeback Mountain."   Continued...

<p>File photo shows screen Actors Guild president Alan Rosenberg rehearsing for the 14th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles January 26, 2008. REUTERS/Sam Mircovich</p>