Your clips online?

IF YOU plan to put your already published work online, be very careful about copyright, warned London Freelance Branch's own copyright expert Mike Holderness at the November Branch meeting, following Ali Gaskill's advice at the same meeting on building and maintaining an online presence.

© Mike Holderness
Chair Dave Rotchelle takes a question for Abi Gaskill (right)

What copyright protects, Mike reminded the meeting, is the "expression" - the exact arrangement of words, or of pixels in a photo - not the idea. And generally there's more than one copyright in the work?- newspapers and magazines will have a right in the typography, so sticking up a scan of an article without their permission is a no-no.

Many contracts will be for First British Serial (FBS, see our glossary at In these cases, you should wait until the issue your article featured in has become a back-issue before putting your piece online. Earlier than that, and you're in breach of contract?- and you'll have pissed them off.

Can you stick up just the text of an article you've written for a publication? This is good reason to avoid assigning your rights. If you've assigned them (had your arm twisted to give them away) they belong to the publication.

But "even very nasty publishers will on request give permission for use in a compilation of your own works". Remember that the original version you submitted is a different work from the published version, but you should ask just in case, in the interests of keeping a good working relationship going?- and do resist the temptation to mention how the subs slaughtered it.

Saying, "this is what I had in The Times, it's behind a paywall, but see it here" could be problematic.

Putting your published photos online? While you may have had to assign some rights on a particular photo, remember that the "second-best shot from the (digital) contact sheet" that they didn't buy from you is yours to do with as you please.

What about the text of an article that was commissioned and not yet used? Email the editor, asking?- are you doing anything with it, can I do anything with it? On no account stick it up if it's not yet published. If it was "commissioned, and you know they're not using it, really they should pay the full fee?- unless you've turned it in a dog's breakfast." If you do put such unused articles online, best practice is to say, "here's a piece I wrote that didn't get used"?- but not to say by whom, advises Mike.

Last modified: 28 Oct 2012 - © 2012 contributors
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