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Freelance Sector Conference 2011

New markets, working in Europe, licensing and rights all came up for debate at the recent NUJ Freelance Sector Conference at Southport, on the eve of the Union's 2011 Delegate Meeting.

Phil Sutcliffe (of LFB and also on the Union's National Executive Council) reported on issues raised by LFB's 2010 conference on New Ways to Make Journalism Pay. Key areas include the need for focused pitches, and consideration of new types of clients. Regional arts councils may be able to fund work, and it is important to understand what they want, and to pitch accordingly. The creative use of self-publishing also offers opportunities to freelances, due to the greatly reduced cost of short-run books. E-publishing is popular, although royalty rates have decreased over the past decade.

Brussels Branch member Philip Hunt spoke on working in Europe. Amsterdam, Brussels and Paris are the three main NUJ branches in Europe. Philip stressed that in an unfamiliar marketplace, it is as necessary to sell oneself as much as the product, and he recommended using the Continental European Council (CEC) online directory, especially if not using a personal webpage.

In Brussels in particular, English language work is usually sub-contracted to firms and journalists will need to have significant subject expertise in order to gain work. Payment is often very slow, especially where research projects rely on outside funding. On the plus side, copyright issues are generally easier to handle, as copyright and moral rights belong to the creator as the default legal position.

Another Brussels member encouraged freelances to hook into large organisations, and recommended projects with academic funding; the universities do the extensive administration work themselves.

The Brussels Branch has been campaigning for journalists to work to day-rates, not word-rates. John Toner, the Freelance Organiser, spoke of the importance of this when editing highly technical work.

A healthy debate centred on the effect on freelances of new media paywalls. Adam Christie, chairing the meeting, suggested that the regional territory for licensing rights online is global, so global licensing rights should be negotiated, usually for a higher fee. John Jones said he treats websites as commercial if they carry paid advertising, demanding higher rates.

On copyright collection, John Toner pointed out that not enough photographers were claiming income from re-uses of their work such as photocopying via DACS.

Phil Sutcliffe ended with a talk on Bauer's rights-grabbing contracts, stressing the importance of both reading - and acting on - the contract, and forming networks with other freelances.

Last modified: 26 Apr 2011 - © 2011 contributors
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