Don't sign the future away to collect for past use

Copy right cash coming

FREELANCES are soon likely to see - finally - a major benefit of retaining their copyright. But there's a catch to beware of. Don't be tempted to sign away future rights when a publisher waves a cheque for use of past work!

After many requests the union's Freelance Industrial Council met with the Newspaper Licencing Agency. This is an organisation set up by the newspaper publishers to collect payment for "secondary uses" of material.

The money the NLA has collected so far is for photocopying of newspaper articles in, for example, commercial research libraries. The NLA charges institutions for a licence to make copies and surveys a sample to see what they actually copy. Then who is due what is worked out statistically.

What, we asked the NLA, about the part of that that should go not to the publishers, but to freelances who retain their rights? Good point, said the NLA. It's coming.

And indeed several members have received letters from the Financial Times: "We have a cheque for £500 waiting for you..." Oh good! "But..." Oh dear... "But we notice you still haven't assigned all rights in your work. If you'd just like to sign the enclosed, we can send the cheque."

This, of course, is not utterly legal. The money belongs to the journalist. Period.

And members who've challenged it have indeed received their cheques, without preconditions. So they'll be getting more later.

Last modified: 14 May 2003 - © 2003 contributors
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