Bauer can’t do this at home...

HEINRICH Bauer Verlag, the German magazine publisher which bought a swathe of EMAP titles in the UK, has run into a spot of bother - or two, one in the UK and one at home.

On 5 May a court in Hamburg struck out key provisions of a contract that boss Heinz Heinrich Bauer was trying to impose on freelance photographers trying to do work for his German titles.

First, the court overruled a contract term that would allow Bauer to re-use pictures in all its outlets for a single fee.

Second, it rejected the ideas that one fee could pay for currently-unknown kinds of use (telepathic media, anyone?) or syndication to third parties. Future uses must be paid for separately.

Third, it ruled that photographers have a right to a credit and Bauer's contract could not make them waive their right to take action to enforce this.

Fourth, and most interestingly, it declared illegal a clause obliging the photographers to indemnify Bauer for costs of any legal action by third parties arising from this work.

Ulrike Maercks-Franzen of the journalists' section of the union ver.di hoped that the ruling would send a strong signal that contract conditions that weaken the legal rights of journalists and burden them with financial risk are now ruled out. Michael Konken, a member of the federal executive of the German Journalists' Union, said that the judgement again confirmed journalists' legal right to fair pay.

Meanwhile, and nevertheless, Bauer was, at the time of writing, still trying to impose these terms, and worse, on freelance contributors to his music magazines in the United Kingdom.

More than 200 journalists have signed up to a statement rejecting the deal, which concludes by asking: "Will Bauer's magazines sell more copies if they push these contracts through, so losing the services of many of their most expert, reliable and popular contributors?"

The full statement is online at www.londonfreelance.org/fl/1005grab.html with links to the extensive press coverage the journalists' resistance has garnered.

The company is refusing to negotiate or to alter the contract. But journalists who are in communication with it were on 18 May waiting for a promised letter modifying the contract's scope and placing limits on how it can be interpreted by the company.

Meanwhile, a report from the German Newspaper Publishers' Association points out that its members are doing rather better than their US counterparts. It points the finger at short-termist cost-cutting driven by stock price panic - but shows that proper authors' rights are no obstacle to success.

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