Monday, ABC began putting Lost "mobisodes" – original scenes first intended for Verizon customers – online. The day before, Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof's New York Times editorial appeared, outlining his reasons for standing firm on the WGA strike, which at heart is about profits from DVD and, increasingly importantly, online distribution.
It's probably not quite as bad as it sounds: it can get lost in the strike rhetoric, but writers and performers can and have been paid for original online content, and it sounds like the Lost writers were for these. At the Banff World Television Festivals I attended, many of the sessions were about online content, and the financing has run the gamut from bypassing the unions altogether to cutting special deals to make sure union members were compensated.
Original online material doesn't seem to be the main bone of contention for the WGA in this strike. The real sticking point is the reuse of material beyond their initial airing. As Lindelof explains in his op-ed piece:
The motivation for this drastic action — and a strike is drastic, a fact I grow more aware of every passing day — is the guild’s desire for a portion of revenues derived from the Internet. This is nothing new: for more than 50 years, writers have been entitled to a small cut of the studios’ profits from the reuse of our shows or movies; whenever something we created ends up in syndication or is sold on DVD, we receive royalties. But the studios refuse to apply the same rules to the Internet.
Still, it's interesting timing by ABC, who have not yet announced that the launch of Lost's season will be delayed, but are said to be putting the episodes online now because of the strike. But in any case, it sounds like Lost fans can feast on the weekly shorts guilt-free while they await word on when their show will return.