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Producers blast actors over Internet clips issue

The studios, represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, accused the Screen Actors Guild of misrepresenting its position on commercial use of actors’ clips online.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A new battle front over use of movie and TV clips on the Internet emerged Wednesday in angry contract talks between actors and Hollywood studios, as talks with one union broke off and another began.

The studios, represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, accused the Screen Actors Guild of misrepresenting its position on commercial use of actors’ clips online.

The producers said they sought to pay actors a fixed fee for use of the clips.

On Tuesday, guild executive director Doug Allen told The Associated Press the producers sought to “evaporate” actors’ rights to control use of their images.

“They want us to give up the 50-year-old right actors have to give consent or not when someone wants to use a clip of their work,” Allen said.

The producers blasted the guild in a new statement Wednesday as they started talks with a smaller union, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

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The alliance said its offer would streamline the process of using the clips.

“Will we be required to compete against agile opponents in the Internet age while constrained by 50-year-old rules, or can we collectively find ways to take advantage of fresh market opportunities?” it said.

Division over DVD sales, Web contentOn Tuesday the producers temporarily broke off talks with SAG after 18 days of negotiating. The producers offered to reopen talks with SAG at a later date.

The guild did not respond immediately to a request for comment Wednesday.

The sides have said they were divided over residual payments for DVD sales and terms covering other Internet content.

Three-year contracts with SAG and AFTRA covering theatrical movies and prime-time TV shows expire June 30.

AFTRA said it will impose a press blackout on details of its negotiations, which cover actors on prime-time TV shows such as “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

AFTRA announced last week that its members ratified a separate deal with producers on shows such as “Oprah” and “American Idol” with a 93 percent approval vote.

In a letter Wednesday to AFTRA members, union President Roberta Reardon cautioned that the federation expected “challenging negotiations” in the talks on the remainder of its TV shows.

AFTRA decided in March to negotiate with studios separately from SAG for the first time in about 30 years. It postponed its talks twice to allow SAG more time to reach a deal.

AFTRA said SAG made another request for more time and to negotiate together Wednesday, but declined.

“We believe it is in the best interests of our members, and our legal obligation, to proceed with our independent negotiations,” it said in a statement.

Both actors unions and the alliance have said they want to avoid a rerun of the 100-day Writers Guild of America strike that shut down scripted TV production before it ended in February and cost the Los Angeles-area economy an estimated $2.5 billion.