Rights-grab resistance

PUBLISHERS are at it again, trying to set up to make profits from new media by getting us to sign over the right to sell our work again and again. And freelances are at it again, being ever-so-polite but stroppy. No-one would want to hire an unchallenging journalist or one who didn't know their own worth - would they? Remember: whatever words and pictures you produce, you own, regardless of who proposed the idea.

Telegraph group

In recent months the Telegraph group (including The Spectator) has been sending contributors a "terms of trade" letter that, inevitably, includes a very comprehensive rights grab. The letter appears to have gone out in dribs and drabs - possibly to make a concerted campaign against it more difficult. Freelance contributors are not asked to return anything with their signature appended, there are merely informed of the Telegraph's terms.

Where this has happened at other newspaper groups, members have had considerable success sending back their own terms of trade, a tactic that does not appear to have prevented anyone from getting work. A briefing paper setting out possible responses to the Telegraph grab has been prepared by the NUJ's copyright consultant, Carol Lee. If you don't get one in this mailing, it's available from Pamela Morton pamelam@nuj.org.uk - or call the freelance office.


The Guardian`s practice of selling "lifting rights" to the entire content of its papers to foreign newspapers such as the Washington Post, has proved problematic for many members. In the last round of negotiations, the Guardian agreed to set up an enquiry into this issue. This is ongoing, but should conclude in the next couple of months. Until the arrival of John Toner as the NUJ's new freelance organiser, Jeremy Dear is dealing with this matter. If you have any queries about this, please write to jeremyd@nuj.org.uk.

If you are a Guardian or Observer contributor and are not part of the e-mail network of freelances, you can join this by emailing guardian. freelance@tesco.net, requesting that you be added to the network.


Some freelances have started to take action against The Independent, which has been acting as though it had acquired rather more extensive licences to use some contributors' work than is actually the case. If you do work for the Independent titles and want to know more, or be put in touch with other Indy freelances, email tim@timdawsn.demon.co.uk.

Scotsman & Business am

As you will have read last issue, there have been various developments with respect to photographers working for Scotsman Publications, publishers of The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday and the Edinburgh Evening News - and for the new Business am title. Both situations are moving at some speed. If you are offered work as a photographer by any of these papers and are not already on the email information group that is co-ordinating liaison with these papers, then please email Gary Doak garydoak@aol.com.


Negotiations with the BBC to put pressure on it to reduce the extent of the rights it demands to work by freelance contributors are in progress. At the last meeting, the Beeb's lead negotiator said that he could foresee a deal in which the BBC only sought to acquire limited, if wide-ranging, rights from freelance journalists. There is hope.

It would be really helpful if some of those who are contributing to the BBC, and BBC Worldwide, in all media, who feel strongly about this could get in touch. Forming a freelances' information-sharing group is usually the first stage to beating the copyright thieves. Please email me tim@timdawsn.demon.co.uk if you would like to be put on a BBC contributors' group list.


If you do work for VNU titles please contact pamelam@nuj.org.uk. According to Media Guardian VNU now says we "misunderstood" the bits about no trips, ownership of notes, legal liability and online rights. We need to get together to press them on the re-draft.

Last modified: 12 December 2000 - © 2000 contributors
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