Powder steals a march
FREELANCES have often wondered when media organisations are going to see that negotiating mutually beneficial rights contracts and agreements with freelances could give them a competitive advantage in attracting the writers, photographers, cartoonists or whatever they want.
Last summer AOL Time Warner bought Ski and Skiing magazines from a smaller company called Times Mirror Magazines. The conglomerate immediately tried to replace the previous owners' First North American Serial Rights deal with the "work-for-hire" contract - which means all-rights - it tries to impose throughout its empire (to very mixed effect, contributors assert, despite corporate claims of universal success).
The magazines' regular freelance writers, led by National Writers Union activists, have been resisting ever since, but so far their efforts have yielded only minimal and unsatisfactory concessions in the syndication area. However, a morale boost came recently when Ski/Skiing's main competitor Powder (published by Primedia) fanfared a change of policy in the opposite direction - from all-rights to First North American Serial Rights only.
Ski/Skiing freelance campaigner David Goodman writes in NWU journal American Writer that a Powder editor told contributors, "We were hoping to show the outdoor writing community which side of the fence we stand on here (the right one) - on the side of creators". Damascene conversion, market forces, or a bit of both - the sea change is freshening.