...& © @ the Sunday Times

THE Sunday Times has sent a "standard copyright agreement" to at least some freelance contributors. The cover letter contains the bland-sounding but dodgy assertion that the proposed agreement "just puts into words the `custom and practice' which has been in place for years". Oh no it doesn't: industry default practice is that writers and photographers license their work for one use on paper.

The agreement stresses that "the journalist shall retain copyright". It then grants the Sunday Times "the first right to use the Material in all the newspaper's present and future forms... for the full term of copyright".

The so-called "assignment" of rights demanded by other papers is equivalent to selling the freehold of your house for the price of a week's rent. The Sunday Times proposal is thus equivalent to granting a 999-year lease -- also for the price of a one-off license -- and as bad.

The paper has made a concession, similar to the Guardian`s, in promising to pay 50% of "net identifiable revenue" from syndication. Just as elsewhere, this is a small part of the benefit the paper gets from re-selling your work. Most sales -- to databases and to other papers -- are en bloc, not identifying individual prices for individual articles.

Let us know how you get on with re-negotiating fairer terms.

Jul 1998
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