Twisted rights-grabs

They’re at it again...

MEMBERS have recently received a charming letter from the Telegraph. You've already guessed what it means, but it's worth quoting in full:

"I am writing to you as a valued contributor to set out our terms for submission of your works to us (past and future) which accords with common industry custom and practice:

"Your will retain copyright.

"During the copyright period and afterwards, The Telegraph and those authorised by it have the world-wide assignable right to use your work in any publication or service in whatever media (e.g. CD Rom, newspapers, on-line etc).

"The Telegraph may syndicate your work by any means and in any form and allow others to authorise scanning/photocopying of cuttings.

"In those cases where your work is syndicated as an individual piece of work, you will be paid 50% of the identifiable sum attributed to the syndication."

Translation by analogy: "You retain ownership of your car, but we're going to drive it wherever we please and rent it out too." What, a member asks, are they offering their less-valued contributors?

The obfuscation in "and afterwards" is a nice touch for connoisseurs. Seventy years after your death, copyright expires and anyone can use your work. So?

Meanwhile the Freelance is told that the Economist has been writing to say they need proof that contributors are self-employed for the purposes of of the Inland Revenue - and that the best way to prove this is to assign your copyright. If true, this is not just economical with the actualité but the opposite of the truth, or - if you'll forgive the technical description - bollocks. Retaining your copyright is an excellent way to demonstrate to the Inland Revenue that you are an independent contractor. How the publication that misses no opportunity to trumpet how hyper-intellectual its content is hopes to get this past its "content providers" is a mystery.

Yet another publisher has handed photographers a contract with very similar wording. We're wondering whether the Economist will sue for breach of its copyright in its copyright-grab.

If you receive one of these letters, outline responses are on this website or contact the Freelance Office for specific advice.

Last modified: 13 May 2002 - © 2002 contributors
The Freelance editor is elected by London Freelance Branch and responsibility for content lies solely with the editor of the time
Send comments to the editor: