Gary Susman
December 12, 2003 AT 05:00 AM EST

The creators of ”Will & Grace” say NBC hasn’t been straight with them. According to the Associated Press, David Kohan and Max Mutchnick are suing NBC and in-house production unit NBC Studios for breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty, arguing that the Peacock acted in bad faith by lowballing the price of the show, effectively cheating the two writers out of their fair share of licensing money.

The suit, filed thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court, claims NBC Studios acted in bad faith by selling the show to its sister network in 1999 for below the price it might have commanded had other networks been allowed to bid. The original licensing fee NBC paid to NBC Studios was well below the show’s production cost, the suit said. A three-year extension of the original deal, signed in 2002 after the show had established itself as one of the network’s biggest hits, still came in ”tens of millions of dollars per season below fair-market value,” the suit said, according to Reuters.

Such suits have been increasingly common in recent years as the lifting of old legal restrictions has allowed networks to own the shows they produce. ”It used to be that production companies had an economic interest to obtain fair market value for their programs,” the suit said. ”This is no longer true in the increasingly common case of negotiations between closely related or commonly owned parties.” The creators of ”Home Improvement” and ”NYPD Blue” filed similar suits against their production studios.

Asked for a response to the ”Will & Grace” suit by Reuters, AP, and the New York Times, NBC publicist Rebecca Marks declined to comment, pending the network’s review of the suit.

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