LOS ANGELES, Nov. 19 — On the picket lines, striking television and film writers adamantly claim that studios are refusing to pay for the use of writers’ scripts on the Internet.
But ABC Studios is doing just that. Over the next three months fans of the hit show “Lost” can go to ABC.com to view weekly episodes of “Lost: Missing Pieces,” a series of new two- to three-minute shorts that reveal background information and previously undisclosed details about the stranded inhabitants of the show’s mysterious island.
The “Missing Pieces” episodes were produced under an agreement with the writers’ union that provides for much of what the writers say the studios have been refusing to offer.
Payment for the use of material on the Internet will be a central issue keeping the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers apart when they head back to the bargaining table on Monday.
But as the “Lost” example shows, the two sides have found common ground before, and both have shown interest in giving some ground on the issue.
The “Missing Pieces” episodes were written by the regular writers of the television series, a group that includes Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof, executive producers of the series, who also oversaw production of the webisodes. They also feature the show’s regular actors and characters, including Matthew Fox, who plays Dr. Jack Shephard. Mr. Fox appears in the first installment, released last week. The writers, actors and others involved in the production were paid specifically for their work on the Web episodes and will earn residual income, just as they do for the broadcast show.
In an interview Mr. Cuse said that while it took five months to reach an agreement, he believes the “Missing Pieces” deal could serve as a template for resolving at least some of the dispute over payment for online use of material.
“I think it is a pretty good model,” he said last week. “What it shows is that there is
basically room for a partnership between writers and the studios in a new medium. It’s where I wish we were headed instead of being stuck in this standoff.”