Act against author abuse!

GUESS. When newspaper owners and broadcasters are in conflict with anyone, who has the upper hand when it comes to getting their case across? Right.

Colleagues in Germany have been lobbying hard over a new law on authors' rights contracts. On 28 January the Federal parliament (Bundestag) approved a watered-down version. Creators' organisations had put arguments that produced a draft law that would have improved their position - until at the last minute the government introduced a range of amendments diluting the final Act.
Poster in German - see caption

A joint German campaign poster. The campaign slogan is hard to translate - it's between "Creativity indeed has value" and "For sure creation is worth something". The particular slogan for this poster is "No to gagging contracts!"

Might this have had anything to do with fear of media owners? In December, commercial television stations in Germany ran adverts for their own political campaign, warning that programmes could not be broadcast if authors' rights were strengthened. Newspapers ran blank pages.

The International Federation of Journalists and both German journalists' unions - the DJV and verdi / IG-Medien - condemned these tactics as an abuse of power, a breach of advertising law and misleading for viewers. It's as if supermarkets held an "empty shelves day" to warn of what they'd do if they were made to do anything as radical as paying farmers. (Ed: Stop giving them ideas, already.)

But, as IFJ General Secretary Aidan White noted, the new law "can still serve as a good example for other European countries where moral rights are practically non-existent". That's us, here in the UK and Ireland.

In campaigning for improvements here, we need your stories about just how bad it can get. Particularly, we need examples of coercive contracts and their bad effects - whether on your income or the ways they allow abuse of your words and pictures. And we especially need to gather examples from outside journalism. Think of the artists, composers and performers you know, and ask them. Why not sell stories about what's happening to them? Editors seem much more likely to cover authors' rights issues when they're not either about journalism (which raises the "incest taboo") or affecting their own proprietors's interests. Definitely tell the Freelance, to compile a dossier.

Last modified: 2 February 2002 - © 2002 contributors
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