Pirates & buggers
A REFRAIN in our campaigning for journalists' copyright over the past year has been "the pirate that journalists are most worried about is called ‘Rupert'." We weren't entirely aware how right we may be: we were thinking of the contracts issued by Rupert Murdoch's News International (NI) that say "You keep copyright..." but (in essence) "we, and only we, can do whatever we like with your work, forever, in universes yet to be invented, for no extra money, and if you don't agree you never darken our doors again."
Now, as the Freelance goes to press, we have the BBC Panorama programme featuring the owner of a hacking website called "The House of Ill-Compute" claiming that NI paid him to distribute pirate access codes for ITV Digital. That company went bust in 2002, to the great benefit of NI's Sky services. The Independent weighed in with a reminder of a continuing trial in Sicily, alleging NI-sponsored hacking of similar pay-TV access cards for its own Sky Italia, shortly before the contract for the cards was switched to an NI company. NI strenuously denies involvement in either alleged wrongdoing.
All this will doubtless provide grist for the next milling of a Murdoch at the Leveson inquiry - according to the Evening Standard pencilled in for the week of 23 April.
This is early in the inquiry's "Module 3", on relations between government and the media. The inquiry arose, of course, from allegations of bugging and tapping by NI.
The NUJ has Core Participant status in Lord Justice Leveson's inquiry into the culture, practice and ethics of the press. Michelle Stanistreet, the union's General Secretary, will be updating the May meeting of London Freelance Branch on the union's evidence and proposals on press regulation - see London Freelance Branch meetings.