Paragon of virtually nothing

ACCORDING to my dictionary, a paragon is "a model of excellence". Given that definition, some might argue that Paragon Publishing could be in breach of the Trades Description Act. The word "excellence" does not immediately spring to mind when you read their External Freelance Contract.

Under the contract, a freelance has to accept that he/she is an independent contractor and is not entitled to benefits such as paid leave, sickness pay, pensions contributions, etc. That is not in itself a problem, as many freelances prefer to work in this way.

But the point of working as an independent contractor is to take advantage of the rights that this entails. Paragon wants to deny you these, too: assigning your copyright and waiving your moral rights. You will also be expected to indemnify the company against any "costs, fines, penalties or damages" arising from the work provided.

This is a lot to expect for a one-off fee. Ah, yes! The fee! If your work is not initially of a suitable standard you may be given the opportunity to revise it. If your revised version is acceptable, you may still be penalised. In other words, your fee may be cut at Paragon's "sole discretion".

What's in it for the freelance, I hear you ask? Well, there is a clause that states "the freelance is free to provide editorial and other works" for other publishers. This is the best clause in the contract - and the real beauty of it is that you don't have to sign the contract to act on it.

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