Teaching to copyright test

SOURCES advise the Freelance that education company Cengage is approaching major publishers, including IPC in the UK and Rolling Stone in USA, to buy the rights to present searchable facsimiles of their magazines online. These, it's averred, would be downloadable - for a fee.

Apparently, Cengage (of Florence, Kentucky, and Reading, Berkshire) state that this usage would not infringe the rights of individual freelance copyright owners. But their initial IPC targets, NME and the late Melody Maker, certainly do include work in which freelances retain the right to re-publish. The Freelance is wondering whether Cengage's contracts with publishers offload such responsibilities, via warranties that the original publishers do own the rights they are selling and indemnify Cengage against any legal actions arising.

It may also be significant that the UK government's Gowers Review of intellectual property proposed a new "exception" to copyright, allowing educational institutions to use your work for "distance learning". The use would be free until educators negotiated a licensing scheme with collecting societies, which would share out small fees to journalists. This is not the law now. It cannot become UK law without a change in European law. The question of whether that change should be made popped up at the last moment in an EU Green Paper, published in June. The NUJ and the European Federation of Journalists will be responding to this.

A reasonable three-way negotiation between original publisher, online facsimile publisher and freelance representatives could surely result in fair shares all round. Freelance organiser John Toner has written to both Cengage and IPC, and neither has replied. Others may be involved in similar online facsimile operations; please send details.

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