Actor must give consent for online use

SAG’s leaders are drawing a line in the sand: In the future actors must still be asked for their consent for clips of their film and TV work to be displayed online.

The clip issue’s emerged as a key point in SAG’s feature-primetime negotiations with the majors, set to resume May 28 — or earlier, should the AFTRA primetime talks conclude quickly. AFTRA’s negotiations go into their ninth day today at the headquarters of the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers.

In a recent SAG website video posting, national exec director Doug Allen took issue with the congloms’ proposal that they be allowed to be distribute such clips online — with payment but without consent required — and stressed that actors have had the right of refusal in traditional media for 50 years. He called it “one of the real boulders in the road” that the two sides need to traverse in order to reach a deal.

“We think that’s a real problem, and we suspect that the membership will agree with us,” he said of the issue. SAG’s holding a member meeting on the negotiations at the WGA Theater in Beverly Hills tonight.

Studios and broadcast networks can use clips for promotional purposes but are required to negotiate with the performers when the clips are used for entertainment. The companies are seeking to develop a market for clips to compete with pirated footage on the Web but assert that being required to seek individual approval from thesps would be so cumbersome as to preclude the feasibility of the business model.

Allen also emphasized during the five-minute message that SAG had spent “quite a bit of time” during the 18 days of negotiations on another consent issue — actors being given the right to refuse to allow product integration in scenes in which they’re performing.

“We recognize that that kind of product integration and placement is necessary to finance television and movie projects, but we want to make sure that they have the opportunity to say no if it’s in conflict with something they’re doing outside of the show or if they’re just uncomfortable doing it,” he said.

Allen chided the AMPTP for not restarting negotiations sooner, saying it’s “wasting time” by not resuming that SAG talks immediately.

SAG’s contract talks recessed May 6 despite objections from the guild that a deal was within reach. The congloms disagreed with that assessment and insisted they were obliged to launch the twice-delayed negotiations with AFTRA, which opened the next day.

Allen also insisted that SAG wants to make a deal, even though the town remains unconvinced that the guild will do so prior to the June 30 contract expiration.

“We’re prepared to go back to the table and get this deal done as soon as possible,” Allen said. “We need management to realize that these are issues important to actors and that the industry needs this to be settled.”

Neither AFTRA nor the AMPTP has had any comment about the AFTRA talks, which have taken place amid a news blackout. AFTRA’s contract also expires June 30 and is being negotiated separately from SAG following a series of bitter disputes between the unions over TV jurisdiction.

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