Freelances strike, and win
NOW IT CAN be told. Last September, freelances
working for the Finnish magazine MikroPC and other publications
owned by the Talentum group "struck" - or, as they
put it, boycotted the client. The reason - as you've probably
guessed, was that the publisher was demanding all financial rights
in their work for no extra compensation. At the time, they asked not
to have publicity in the Freelance.
In Finland, as in the rest of joined-up Europe, journalists cannot
legally give up their rights to a byline and to defend their work
against distortion. But publishers are still trying it on to produce
new Web products on the cheap.
Talentum issued its demand in June 1999. Two-thirds of the content
of MikroPC is produced by outside contributors. These
are, as you might expect anywhere but especially in Finland, computer-literate
and adapted to the internet. Within a few days a contributors'
email list was awash with messages. By the beginning of September
the list had over 60 subscribers. But management wasn't talking.
On 9 September, two dozen technology journalists wrote to Talentum,
saying that since the company wouldn't co-operate on authors'
rights they wouldn't co-operate on content.
The email list mobilised messages of support from the European Federation
of Journalists, the (US) National Writers Union, the Dutch and Danish
unions, the NUJ and the Talentum Staff Journalists' Club, among
One week later the first meeting with management was held. Negotiations
started on 27 September, with the union representing 38 contributors
to six magazines and online services. On 18 October a new contract
was agreed. Since then contributors have generally been getting at
least 30% extra for the re-use of their work in the Web editions of
the magazines. The contract gives Talentum an exclusive license for
a fixed period, after which freelances can re-sell it as they wish.