Writers to Vote on Strike Deal The deal is not going to benefit everyone just yet, says Variety's Cynthia Littleton. Nonetheless, it establishes the basic principle that writers should be reimbursed when their work appears on the Web.
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Writers to Vote on Strike Deal

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Writers to Vote on Strike Deal

Writers to Vote on Strike Deal

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Madeleine Brand.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

I'm Alex Chadwick. The Hollywood writers strike is all but over. Leaders of the Writers Guild have approved a new contract. They're urging the membership to vote yes on it. And the members are voting now. They could be back at work on Wednesday. Joining us is Daily Variety reporter Cynthia Littleton. Cynthia, welcome to DAY TO DAY. And what is in this deal for the writers?

Ms. CYNTHIA LITTLETON (Daily Variety): Really this deal establishes the principle that writers will be paid for reuse of their of their traditional film and - writing done for traditional film and television on the Internet, when it is made available for paid downloads like iTunes or if it is made available for free web streaming off of, say, ABC.com or NBC.com.

CHADWICK: ABC and NBC are making money on this because they sell ads on it and the writers are saying I'm going to get a little slice of that.

Ms. LITTLETON: A lot of the anger that fueled this strike came about because the networks have all, in varying degrees, gone very heavily into the business of offering a lot of programming off of their websites and making it available on other websites, and there was no - until now there was no provision for the networks to pay writers for those reruns, which they would traditionally, if it was a regular rerun on their networks, they would be obligated to pay writers significant residual fees. That wasn't established in the guild contracts yet, and so this is really a case of Hollywood contracts and deal-making catching up with technology.

CHADWICK: So to get a part of what is going to be happening online, that is a very big deal. Still, writing in Variety today, you say you're not sure that the writers as a whole actually have done themselves any favors with this.

Ms. LITTLETON: Well, on the surface of this three-year contract, there is not going to be a gigantic windfall for most writers. The deal points do allow for some of the most successful shows and successful movies, the top sellers, the writers of those programs and movies will do pretty well under this contract. In the main, if you ask any writer, this was a fight about the future, it was about establishing these principles. The money in this next three-year period that the contract covers isn't going to be huge, but what they see as a victory is the fact that the principles are now in this contract and as they - as the business grows - you know, the new media business is still very nascent - and as this business grows, they will monitor it, both sides of the table will kind of try to get their arms around what the financial parameters of the business is.

And then in 2011, when they next negotiate a contract, it could also be very interesting because there could be a whole 'nother round of fighting about, well, now we know what this business is and what it makes, and there could be a whole 'nother round of fighting over what is considered an equitable share for writers.

CHADWICK: How about this as a principle for the writers. If you're going to go out strike, do it a few months before the Oscars, because that's a deadline that will cause the industry to crumble.

Ms. LITTLETON: The Oscars was very much a symbolic date that the industry just did not want to have to table the Oscars or make it a much different type of telecast than we're used to. A lot of writers felt it was a very superficial deadline, but you just recognize the kind of emotional blow to the industry if Hollywood couldn't put on it's usual Oscar finery.

CHADWICK: The Screen Actors Guild contract coming up in a few months, we'll be talking to you again. Cynthia Littleton, a reporter for Variety. Thank you.

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