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A strike about the unknown

Blame it on Hulu. Movie and TV producers are bracing for a lengthy strike by the writers' union, triggered in part by an impasse over how writers should be paid when their work is redistributed over the Net. The negotiations are complicated by the writers' resentment over home-video residuals, which fuels their determination to gain a bigger share of the revenue online. The studios, on the other hand, argue that neither they nor anyone else knows how to make money online, so they don't want to be locked into a residual formula that raises the cost of distributing programs online.

A number of start-ups, though, are developing ways to translate the traditional TV business model to the Net. And unlike the aforementioned News Corp.-NBC Universal joint venture, their technology takes full advantage of the file-sharing networks that have become hotbeds for TV piracy. I wrote an Opinion Daily column about three of those companies -- Hiro Media, YuMe and Brand Asset Digital -- and you can find it here. Full disclosure: the first version of the column, which was posted at 12:01 a.m. today, included a mockworthy bit of numbskullery about Mininova, a BitTorrent index site. My error attracted polite e-mails from Niek van der Maas at Mininova and David Price of Envisional, a UK firm that monitors the Net, who pointed out that I'd inflated the Mininova daily-download numbers by three (count 'em, 3) orders of magnitude. D'ohhhh! Thanks to both for the correction, which I incorporated into the current version of the piece.

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Times editorial writer Jon Healey pens opinion pieces about a variety of business issues, and blogs about technologies that are changing the entertainment industry's business model.

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