Get libel insurance: keep fighting those clauses

THE INSURANCE policy that Tim Dawson has just arranged "cost £310, and covers not only my work at the moment, but automatically covers everything that I have written since I joined the NUJ." Tim, Chair of the union's Freelance Industrial Council, is just one of the journalists who have signed up the NUJ's "Writer" policy against libel - see www.imaginginsurance.co.uk/writers.html

The Hon. Sir James Stirling by "Spy" (Sir Leslie Ward, 1851-1922)

The Hon. Sir James Stirling by "Spy" (Sir Leslie Ward, 1851-1922) for Vanity Fair

"My instinctive reaction to insurance is never to take it out on any risk that I can afford to cover myself" Tim says. "As I now own my home and have a family to support, it is easy to see how disastrous it could be if someone did ever bring a case against me."

The policy "seems like a very modest price for peace of mind". and is, of course, a tax-deductible business expense. Incidentally, the NUJ receives no commission for policies sold.

Freelance Organiser John Toner points out that "publishers have been pushing indemnity clauses for some time - it has been standard in book publishing contracts for many decades. "It is difficult to imagine," John continues, "that they will be encouraged to accelerate this because of an insurance policy." Members will still be advised to try to negotiate away the indemnity clauses.

"The most important point is this: NUJ members have been seeking such insurance for many years." We have a recent report of a  member managing to limit a libel clause that came with a multi-author book contract so that liability was limited to the original fee paid, and that the clause specifically excluded any amendments or editorial alterations made after submission. This was after being told that the publishers were "entirely unwilling to budge."

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