Freelance briefing paper

Have you received a letter from a publisher like the one reproduced below? If so. this briefing gives suggested responses depending on your particular circumstances and arrangements.

!
From: Group Executive Editor
To: All Freelance Contributors

I am writing to you as a valued contributor to advise you of our respective rights when we commission work from you. In common with other national newspapers in the UK, these are our terms and conditions:

  • You will retain your copyright.
  • The <publisher> has the world-wide right to use your work in any publication or service that we own or control, and in whatever media, eg CD Rom, newspapers, on-line etc.
  • The <publisher> may syndicate your work by any means and in any form and allow others to authorise scanning / photocopying of cuttings.
  • In those cases where your work is syndicated as an individual piece of work, you will be paid 50% of the identifiable sum attributed to the syndication.
  • Our respective rights will last indefinitely.
Group Executive Editor
 

Freelance copyright is under threat yet again. The letters from publishers are becoming more crafty because they begin with the words "You will retain your copyright".

In fact, the licence you would give if you agreed to these letters is giving away your copyright in all but name. These "punitive licences" take worldwide rights indefinitely, for all uses.

Licences of this kind are now issued by many publications, possibly as a way of trying to trap unwary freelances with the first sentence: "You will keep your copyright".

The 50 per cent for an individual piece of work is the old "spot sales" system which has traditionally been paid by all newspapers.

It is important not to sign up to these terms. Suggested responses are set out below.

It is important to retain meaningful copyright of your work. Only by doing this will you be paid should your work be republished.

Please read this leaflet carefully and, if necessary, use the suggested letters.

1
Dear Managing Editor

Thank you for your letter informing me of your copyright terms. Unfortunately, I cannot agree to the terms as they would appear to prevent me from re-using my work - for all time.

If you wish to discuss this with me further, I will be happy to do so

Yours sincerely

 

No freelance who sent this response to similar letters from Associated Newspapers last summer received any further communication.

If you were contacted you should point out that the licence required ties up your work indefinitely for the whole world in all media - and that is unreasonable.

The NUJ's Battling for Copyright book (sent out to all freelance members) will give you further thoughts for the way you want to conduct your affairs and your arguments. Depending on your circumstances, you may want to reply:

2
Dear Managing Editor

Thank you for your letter informing me of your copyright terms. Unfortunately, I cannot agree to these terms as they would appear to prevent me from re-using my work for all time.

As you may be aware, the department of Trade and Industry has set out a policy encouraging creators to become individual traders in a global marketplace. The conditions you set out in your letter would effectively prevent me from trading.

If you wish to discuss this with me further, I will be happy to do so.

Yours sincerely

3
Dear Managing Editor

Thank you for your letter informing me of your copyright terms. Unfortunately, I cannot agree to these as I already syndicate my own material.

If you wish to discuss this with me further, l will be happy to do so

Yours sincerely

4
Dear Managing Editor

Thank you for your letter informing me of your copyright terms. Unfortunately, I cannot agree to these as I already have an agent who syndicates my work for me.

If you wish to discuss this with me further, l will be happy to do so.

Yours sincerely

 

If you receive a letter like the one above, the Union strongly recommends that you reply immediately. Publishers very often regard silence as acceptance of their unfair terms.

Should you need any further advice or have information to share with other freelances please contact the NUJ Freelance Office or, if you are in Ireland, the NUJ Dublin office. Or, you could contact the Chair of the NUJ Freelance Industrial Council.

 
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Last modified: 15 November 2001
Still applicable: 07 June 2012
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