Contrôl ffruciau

CONTROL FREAKS are obviously a rather English concept. So what are we to make of this letter to the NUJ from Michael Brooke, Director of Communications of the Welsh Assembly: "In stipulating this the National Assembly for Wales is concerned to protect and control the use of any photography it commissions..."

Stipulating what, you may ask? He goes on: "...and also to ensure value for money so that any photographs commissioned can be used several times without incurring any extra charges."

Oh, that: "the fact that the contract specifies that copyright will rest with the National Assembly for Wales".

What we make of it, apart from a hash of a Welsh spelling of these alien loan-words, is, in the words of Freelance Organiser John Toner in his letter to First Minister Rhodri Morgan:

Dear Mr Morgan,

I write on behalf of a number of NUJ members who are extremely concerned about the terms and conditions contained in a contract offered to photographers by the Assembly's Communication Directorate.

You may be aware that freelance journalists are engaged in a constant struggle to prevent large companies such as IPC from insisting on copyright assignment as a condition of commissions.

Many organisations that represent creators have come together to form the campaigning body Creators' Rights Alliance, and representatives of that organisation met with Dr Kim Howells and Patent Office officials on June 17 of this year. We received a generally sympathetic hearing and assurances of support in our attempts to meet with the companies concerned.

As you can imagine, we are dismayed to learn that the National Assembly for Wales is offering contracts to photographers that include the phrase: Copyright in all formats will rest with the client.

The 1988 Copyright, Designs and Patents Act gives the photographer ownership of copyright in all the work he/she creates, including commissioned work. The Government did not intend that photographers should be forced to give up their legal right to own their own work as a condition of obtaining work. I am astonished that a body of Government should seek to circumvent the law in this way.

There appears to have been no consultation on this document, either with individual photographers or with their trade union representatives. I firmly believe that the Labour Party still has the best interests of working people at heart, and I would hope that a body with a Labour majority would not impose such a condition.

Would you please look into this matter with a view to reviewing the contract.

I would be happy to meet with you or any of your colleagues to discuss this matter further.

Michael Brooks replies that "On legal advice we are satisfied that we are not circumventing the law in making this a requirement." The Assembly may not be breaking the law, but that's not what John said. And Mr Brooks repeats that he's unwilling to consider licensing use of pictures because then "the National Assembly for Wales would not have control over the use of any photographs."

Will any photographers who have pictures that the Assembly wants to hide please get in touch - because they're almost certainly at least interesting to the public, and probably in the public interest. And now can we have that meeting with the elected official John wrote to?

Last modified: 10 August 2002 - © 2002 contributors
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