ON AUGUST 28 photographers contributing to Inside Communications' publications received one of those all-rights letters, but including a slight smokescreen. And the very next day the magazine relented.
"It is necessary," the magazine wrote, "for Inside Communications to be sure that all contributors and freelance workers are responsible for their own tax and national insurance. At the same time," and by the bye, "we are taking the opportunity to up-date our paperwork relating to Copyright." There followed a comprehensive rights-grab.
Member Andrew Wiard was quite happy to supply the tax details, though he couldn't resist pointing out that they were printed on every invoice he'd sent over the years. The rest of his reply is worth reproducing in full here:
28 August 2001
Thank you for your letter which I
received this morning. I do understand it is "necessary to be
sure that all contributors and freelance workers are responsible for
their own tax and national insurance", but in the case of a long
standing contributor like myself I think Inside Communications has
always been quite clear about that, despite changes in offices &
ownership over the years. So I find it surprising that I should be
required to confirm this in writing, particularly as all my invoices
are VAT invoices, complete with VAT number. And I cannot see why, if
you do not receive the signed declaration to that effect "by the end
of September there could be a delay processing future invoices". May
I remind you my terms always have been, and remain, thirty days.
I certify that any amount claimed by me for work done on behalf of Inside
Communcations is paid gross and that I am fully responsible for any tax and
National Insurance which may be payable.
The rest of your "Contributors' Declaration" however is quite
outrageous, and I have no intention whatsoever of signing it. You claim
you are "taking the opportunity to up-date our paperwork relating
to Copyright". In fact you are attempting to grab all my rights...
After all this time it would have been a pleasant surprise to get a few words addressed to me personally - maybe saying how much you have valued my contributions over the years. But a little note grabbing all my rights! Get lost!
In view of the seriousness of this I am copying this letter to those I supply at Inside Housing, the editor & picture desk staff, and to as many freelances as I can who could possibly be affected."
As you appear completely ignorant of the basis upon which I have been
supplying Inside Housing since the late eighties, and may not be
alone in this, I must ask you to do your best to ensure that all
those at Inside Communications who need to know are now aware that
under the Copyright Design and Patents Act 1988 I always retain
copyright in work supplied to your organisation, have always done so,
and will under no circumstances sign it away.
Let me spell it out: for stock photographs I supply one single
editorial print use in one edition. And I certainly do not guarantee
that it is "not published elsewhere", in the words of your poorly
drafted document, which fails to distinguish between these &
commissioned work. For commissioned material you do indeed get first
publication, but this is limited to immediate editorial print use in
one edition only. Other rights can be negotiated, of course, but not
the sale of copyright itself.
And in these circumstances, I need to ask for assurances which I have
never felt necessary in the past. Everything I supply Inside
Communications carries my copyright notice. I now need it confirmed
that no-one will tamper with or remove my copyright notices from my
material which is in your possession. I must also insist that my
material held on file, physical or electronic, at Inside Housing, is
not accessible to or handed over to any other title or library in
your organisation, to the libraries of its current or future owners,
or for that matter to anyone else.
I have always given Inside Housing my best work, & hope
to continue to do so. But not if any of my invoices are subject to mysterious
The bit about "copying this letter... to freelances", of course,
nowadays means that Andrew circulated his response on the Editorial Photo UK email list - see www.epuk.org - and it reached most of the photographers concerned. It rapidly emerged that the picture desk had nothing to do with all this. So the company very quickly saw that the move was counterproductive. It is now asking photographers to delete this clause, then sign and return the rest.
There is a snag. The company is still trying to grab rights from freelance writers working from its offices. If you're one, please get in contact with Ros Bayley: email email@example.com