As published in the New York Times:
A 'Seinfeld' Star Will Do the DVD but Asks for Pay
By SHARON WAXMAN
Published: December 24, 2003
LOS ANGELES, Dec. 23 — Michael Richards, a star of the hit television comedy "Seinfeld," says he will take part in the making of a DVD of the series, but he says he ought to be paid for it.
People close to Mr. Richards and his co-stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Jason Alexander said on Monday that the actors had decided not to grant interviews for the DVD because they were unhappy with the financial deals they have had with the show over the years.
"I'm not boycotting," Mr. Richards, who played Kramer in the series, said in a telephone interview late Monday night. "I'm involved. I was never called to do an interview. I am so for the DVD coming out that I'll go on the `Tonight' show."
But Mr. Richards said he thought he ought to be paid for taking part in the DVD project, in part because the show has been such a windfall for its creators, producers and distributors: Jerry Seinfeld, Larry David, Castle Rock Television and Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment. They will all share profits from the DVD.
Actors do not typically receive residual payments for DVD's, but this is quickly becoming a major issue in Hollywood, as DVD sales now bring in millions of dollars to those who control the rights to hit television shows and movies, far more than revenue from videocassettes.
Mr. Richards said: "I innocently asked a question. Is there some compensation? I don't believe there is. There isn't anything."
He added, "I think everyone wants to get paid," referring to his co-stars. "Is it honorable for those on the inside to make compensation? That's an ethical question they have to deal with. But I never heard back from anybody."
Mr. Seinfeld and Mr. Richards spoke together yesterday to mend fences. A spokeswoman for Mr. Seinfeld said: "Jerry and the other producers are profit participants of the `Seinfeld' show and do not control the ancillary stream of revenue. The owner is Warner Brothers, and Sony controls the syndication rights, which includes DVD sales."
Ms. Louis-Dreyfus and Mr. Alexander could not be reached for comment, their representatives said.
Mr. Richards said that he had spoken to Ms. Louis-Dreyfus on Monday and that she was noncommittal about taking part in the DVD.
To some degree the dispute may be about a lack of communication. Mr. Richards said he asked Mr. Seinfeld why he did not call when Mr. Seinfeld first heard that his co-stars had declined to take part in the DVD.
"I said, `Why didn't you call me?' " Mr. Richards said. "He said, `I should have.' "