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In Germany, it’s good to talk

IN SOME countries, collective negotiations of minimum terms for freelances are actively discouraged - not just by publishers and broadcasters, but by the anti-monopoly or "competition" wing of government, which appears to fear that we could suddenly turn into a cartel as powerful as the oil industry would be, were it to conspire...

In other countries, collective negotiation of decent terms is actively encouraged. Germany is one. The two journalists' unions there, the Deutscher Journalisten-Verband and the journalists' section of Ver.di, have concluded an agreement with the newspaper publishers' association on common remuneration standards.

From 1 February, all professional freelance journalists writing for German newspapers are entitled to minimum fees. Depending on the kind of newspaper and story, these range from 47 cents to Euro 1.65 per line of print. For a repeat use of the work, the tariff ranges from 38 cents to Euro 1.25 per line - and if a publishing company is already paying more, that higher fee applies. The agreement makes it clear that expenses are claimable on top.

The agreement also specifies that writers are free to syndicate their work or sell it elsewhere: it rules out "buy out" clauses that allow publishers to re-use work for one fee. Use in the current online edition or the internal archive is included in the fee, but every new use, including use by newspapers in the same group, has to be licensed and paid for.

Negotiations continue with the newspaper publishers on terms offered to freelance photojournalists.

These negotiations were made possible by the German law governing authors' contracts - the Urhebervertragsgesetz - passed in 2002. This gives all authors a right to fair remuneration, and as well as making it clear that such talks do not breach anti-monopoly laws specifies that if negotiations fail, the unions can go to arbitration.

Talks with magazine publishers are also still pending. Meanwhile, German freelances have a court date with the Bauer magazine group over its "buy-out" contract clauses. On 16 March in Hamburg they will argue that these are themselves in breach of anti-monopoly law.

Last modified: 23 Feb 2010 - © 2009 contributors
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