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Writers’ Strike Centers on Internet ‘Residuals’

The Writer's Guild of America has been on strike for several months now, a strike called over a dispute on 'residuals' -- money made mostly by DVD sales and Internet streaming of television shows. Jeffrey Kaye of KCET Los Angeles reports on the status of the negotiating stalemate between the WGA and the networks.

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  • JEFFREY KAYE, NewsHour Correspondent:

    Even though more than 12,000 members of the Writers Guild of America have stopped turning in scripts, much of their previous work is available on demand to anyone with a computer and a decent Internet connection.

    Since 2005, networks and production companies have been putting an increasing number of programs online. And that migration to the Internet is at the heart of the labor dispute: How much should writers be paid when their material is shown on what the industry calls "new media"?

    The writers point out that, as on TV, most Internet programs come with commercials. The networks don't disclose how much they earn from the Internet, but online advertising overall is growing rapidly. It amounted to more than $20 billion last year in the United States, a 20 percent jump over 2006, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers.

  • SHAWN RYAN, Writer:

    So I click on and watch this episode, "Force Majeure"…

  • JEFFREY KAYE:

    Shawn Ryan has taken a keen interest in the networks' use of the Internet, not merely as a viewer, but as the creator of two hit series, "The Shield" on FX Network, owned by FOX and "The Unit," which airs on CBS.

    Ryan is also a member of the Writers Guild Negotiating Committee.

  • ACTOR:

    People might think you can turn creativity on and off…

  • SHAWN RYAN:

    But sometimes companies don't want to pay you for that creativity.

  • JEFFREY KAYE:

    As he clicked around the CBS.com Web site displaying his program, he noted that, in order to watch "The Unit," he had to first play the commercial.

  • SHAWN RYAN:

    Nikon is paying CBS to have this on the air. I'm going to pause this right now. I couldn't pause an ad, but now that it's back on the show, I can pause.

    And so far, in the last year-and-a-half, two years, what they've paid writers, and actors, and directors based on this revenue is nothing. This strike has finally gotten them to admit that some payment is due, but the strike is continuing because we're haggling over what that payment should be.

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