‘The most outrageously unfair contract’

Mr Toby Usnik
Director, Public Relations
The New York Times Company
229 West 43rd Street
New York, NY 10036
United States of America

Dear Mr Usnik,

It is a routine part of my job to advise photographers on contracts they are offered by potential clients. As you might imagine, I have seen some extremely unfair contracts over the years.

I can honestly say the most recent contract offered by The New York Times is the most outrageously unfair to freelance photographers that I have ever seen.

You ask the photographer to assign joint copyright to your company, thus allowing you to exploit the images for the duration of copyright without further payment to the photographer. In effect, the freelance photographer will be forced to compete with your company in the marketing of his/her images.

In addition, you seek warranties that transfer your obligations as a publisher to the freelance, making him/her solely responsible for any inadvertent infringement of copyright. In fact, you are seeking an assurance that is impossible to provide.

All this for the sum of $150 per day!

The New York Times is one of the most respected newspapers in the world, with a reputation for accuracy, integrity and quality. You donít need me to tell you that quality comes at a price. The contract you are offering is anathema to freelance photographers, and I believe you will drive away the experienced professionals who enhance your pages and who play a major role in maintaining the paperís reputation.

In the long run, the photographers will lose out, the Timesís readers will lose out and, eventually, the company loses. You still have time to prevent this from happening, by talking to the photographers and negotiating a contract acceptable to both parties.

The NUJ has 35,000 members. We will recommend that they do not sign this contract. I will also ask the International Federation of Journalists - with 500,000 members - to issue a similar recommendation.

I hope you will take account of this letter, and the other protests you have received, and re-consider.

Yours sincerely,

Last modified: 21 March 2004 - © 2004 contributors
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