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 others.

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.

Aug/Sep 2000
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Last modified: 25 July 2000 (overwritten in error & re-posted 16/04/2003)
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