Emap Metro - the real deal

THE FOUR-YEAR copyright deadlock between Emap's Metro division and freelance writers has been broken by the company's acknowledgement in writing that the freelances do own their work -- and offer of a novel syndication arrangement.

Discussions between Metro management, freelance reps and a company called Planet Syndication (prop. NUJ member Dorian Silver) produced a deal whereby freelances who agree to license their syndication right get 30% of gross sales. On sales derived largely from freelances' efforts, they get 40%. In either case Planet takes 40%, and Metro gets the remainder. This is not an agreement between the company and the NUJ, which it does not recognise. The freelance group is an alliance of union members and non-members with clients in common.

Among the pluses are recognition of freelance copyright, and that freelances can choose freely to use Planet or to go for the usual 50/50 deal. Minuses are the percentages, and the implication that freelances using another syndicator could be at loggerheads with Emap.

The story began in January 1995, when freelances were offered the opportunity to dispose of all their rights, for all time, throughout the universe, for all media including those yet to be invented -- all for just £0.00! That provoked the formation of a freelance group, who just said NO through petition-style letters signed by 135 writers.

This proposal does not touch on digital rights -- which, through the illusion of internet virtual goldmines, stirred Emap to its "mother of all rights grabs". The company is not re-using freelances' work on websites or anywhere else. Metro freelances hope that the present civilised dialogue can continue to deal with this and other wrinkles, such as long-overdue basic rates increases.

Mar/Apr 1999
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