Now the NUJ has to defend Scottish photographers' archives

SNAP to the Sheriff

THE NUJ has committed resources to several legal cases to keep up the campaign to persuade The Scotsman Publications Limited (TSPL) to further improve the contract it is requiring freelance photographers to sign. A barrister will be appointed to oversee the defence of the photographers' right to control copyright material of theirs that is held in publishers' archives.

"This is clearly a vital case for freelances and for copyright," says John Foster, the NUJ general secretary. "I am taking a personal interest in the case and will ensure that top legal help is provided for the Edinburgh photographers."

The photographers involved in the dispute organised the Scottish Newspapers' Association of Photographers - SNAP. Many wrote to TSPL asking that their archival material not be used. Lawyers acting on behalf of the newspaper group have subsequently argued that TSPL has an implicit and open-ended right to use material, even though there is no written agreement between the parties. The NUJ's legal advice is that this is not the case; it will be initiating actions on behalf of the photographers to uphold this view in the coming weeks. And, for those not familiar with Scottish law, that's where SNAP meets the Sheriffs.

TSPL has been trying to force freelance photographers to sign a contract since November last year. At the start of March, John McGurk, managing editor or the group announced at short notice that photographers who did not sign the contract would no longer be allowed to work for the papers. freelance photographers all over Scotland objected to the suggested contract and stopped supplying TSPL. For a month none of its three titles had any new material from freelance photographers.

After a month, the paper made a substantially revised offer, improving the contract in significant ways - but still making it unacceptable to many of the photographers involved in the dispute. As a result, the photographers' group accepted that some of their number would feel compelled to return, but vowed to keep up the pressure for a better contract.

The points of contention are: the mandatory syndication of photographers' work; the abolition of reproduction fees for re-use of material in the commissioning paper; an unclear clause covering internet use and; and an "all rights" grab that, while it appears to contradict the rest of the contract, TSPL has to date refused to alter.

The NUJ has set up a fund to provide some help to the dependents of those photographers involved in the dispute - over £5000 has been distributed to date, including £1000 from London Freelance Branch. Other branches are welcome to contribute: cheques payable to NUJ and marked for "Edinburgh hardship fund". For the latest news on the dispute, please email or call the Freelance Office.

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Last modified: 26 April 2001 - © 2001 contributors
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