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AFTRA members ratify contract with new streaming fee for video games

July 15, 2011 | 12:32 pm

L.A. Noire
Actors and other performers who work on video games from such companies as Electronic Arts and Activision Blizzard Inc. will now get paid a onetime fee when games are streamed over the Internet.

The so-called cloud-gaming fee -- the first of its kind -- was part of a new contract ratified Friday by members of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

The union, which represents about 70,000 actors, recording artists and broadcasters, said the new 3-1/2 year contract, retroactive to July 1, includes a 3% bump on all minimum compensation over the life of the contract, with the minimum session fee rising to $825 by May 1, 2013. The agreement also includes a 0.5% increase in the contributions companies pay into the union's health and retirement fund.

The fee for cloud gaming -- in which players connect to a service that provides Internet streaming of a game, rather than a version downloaded to computers -- gives performers an additional onetime payment of 15% of their session fees for each video game that is made available on streaming services. 

The fee resolves a longstanding dispute over a contract provision negotiated in 2005 that required employers to pay a fee to performers for the remote delivery of video games. Employers disagreed with the union on how that provision should be interpreted. As a result, the fee was never paid.

AFTRA's negotiators accepted the cloud-gaming fee provision, which expires at the end of the contract, in exchange for giving up claims to other types of residual payments for video games.

AFTRA's sister union, the Screen Actors Guild, has yet to negotiate a new video game contract with producers.

-- Richard Verrier

A scene from Rockstar Games' murder-mystery game L.A. Noire. Credit: Rockstar Games

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