Online only, so far

Survey reveals how members’ work is ripped off

HALF OF all NUJ members who made some effort to get some money out of those who had infringed their copyright were successful in getting something, so it's clearly worth a punt. That was one of the findings of the NUJ's survey of freelances, looking at contracts and plagiarism of journalists' work.

The NUJ survey included questions on plagiarism - put together by John Chapman of the NUJ's Freelance Industrial Council (FIC) and Continental European Council. (John was responding to a motion passed at the Union's Delegate Meeting on "plagiarism". It's not unusual for NUJ members in Continental Europe to find their work in English ripped of and printed or put online, translated into the national language of the country where they're based.) The Freelance's own Mike Holderness, also of FIC, contributed questions on contracts for the survey as well.

illegal Italian translation of the author's work; Matt Salusbury

An unauthorised bootleg Italian translation of one of the author's articles discovered online

Of the just under 300 members who responded to the Union's questions on contracts, 57 were photographers (some of whom wrote as well). And 220 respondents also answered questions on plagiarism.

In total 68 members reported having discovered they'd had their work published without their permission in the last two years - mostly on the web, but with some examples in print as well.

How do NUJ members uncover plagiarism of their work? Of the 37 who explained their discoveries, 16 said they'd used a search engine, and not just the more famous one.

Trying to discover via internet searches whether they'd had work ripped off was something that 64 of those surveyed had done. Of those, 44 said they'd found no evidence of breach of their copyright, two had done Google searches for their own names; one used Copyscape, which offers to "search for copies of your page on the web"; one used the privacy-respecting DuckDuckGo search engine; and 13 mentioned using software to find copies of photos. Tineye was named by over half of those: seven journalists in total report using it. Two members admitted to having "never thought about" seeking out illegal copies of their work online.

The Freelance is putting together a guide to alternative search engines. Please send suggestions for other search engines you regularly use, with a very brief description of what they're particularly good at, and their limitations, to editor@londonfreelance.org, please.

Just stumbling across their plagiarised work by accident was a phenomenon reported by a dozen of the journalists surveyed, while nine journalists found ripped-off work of their by other means.

Having work ripped off by outlets that copied members' photos, or sold on their work, was something that 19 members said they'd experienced since 2012. This included rip-offs by "foreign newspapers". Roughly half of these respondents said they'd come across their articles reproduced (in part or in toto without permission and uncredited.

The survey also asked members whether they'd had their work stolen just in the last two months. Of the 31 members who replied to this question, 11 said "no". Unlicensed copying of articles and pictures copied in social media in the two month before the survey was reported by ten journalists, while four journalists said outlets had agreed a fee for print usage only, only for them to find they'd gone and put their work online as well without asking them. (Or vice versa: a licence for online only had been granted, but the client had used it in print too.) Six respondents reported some other breach of copyright in just the two months before the survey.

Nine out of ten respondents said the first publication of their work had been in either the UK or Ireland, with three fifths of reported copyright breaches being in the UK.

Of the journalists who'd found breaches of their copyright, 18 sought payment for this, and of these nine were successful in getting some money out of the copyright thieves. Help from the NUJ to extract money from infringers was sought by nine respondents, but it's not known whether these were the same nine who were "successful". One of the members surveyed commented, "It would never have occurred to me to ask the NUJ to help!".

Some respondents reported being not all that bothered about their work being copied, as they felt that in some circumstances it helped them to get noticed - especially abroad. Others feared that pursuing payment for a copyright breach would mean they'd lose clients, while another member noted that most clients have "a very poor understanding of copyright" and seem to assume they get all rights as a default position.

As a result of this survey, there are plans to (eventually) update our guide to the basics of copyright on seeking out unauthorised uses of your work. Watch this space. Meanwhile:

Last modified: 31 Oct 2014 - © 2014 contributors
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