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Hollywood Unions Seek Slice of Apple Video Sales

October 15, 2005|From Associated Press

In a show of unity, five unions representing actors, writers and directors issued a joint call for talks to make sure their members get a cut of revenue generated by the sale of TV shows on Apple's iTunes software.

The unions sent a clear message to TV producers.

"We have not yet heard from the responsible employers of our members," their joint statement said. "But we look forward to a dialogue that ensures that our members are properly compensated for this exploitation of their work."

The presidents of unions representing Hollywood writers and actors were having lunch Wednesday when they saw a TV report about a deal to allow episodes of ABC shows such as "Lost" to be downloaded for portable viewing on the video iPod from Apple Computer Inc.

ABC became the first network to allow viewers to download episodes of their shows the day after they air. Other networks are expected to follow.

The development was news to Patric M. Verrone, president of the Writers Guild of America, West, and John Connolly, president of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

The two called their counterparts at the Screen Actors Guild, Directors Guild of America and the Writers Guild of America, East.

The unions have not yet called ABC or its parent, Walt Disney Co., to discuss how much of the $1.99 that Apple is charging for a single episode should go to writers, actors and directors.

"The guilds are our business partners, and we always welcome a dialogue with them on any business-related issue that affects their members," ABC said in a statement.

The groups already have agreements that cover the reuse of their work on the Internet or in "pay per view" models. They also have newer deals covering work produced for the Internet.

A conflict could arise if studios decide to treat the Internet downloads the same as a DVD sale, which might result in lower payments.

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