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Put up fees by 50 per cent, orders Dutch judge

IN AN "historic judgement", a judge in Amsterdam ruled that the fees paid in 2018 to two Dutch freelance journalists -13 euro cents a word and €42 per photo - were not "fair" in law. The judge ordered their client DPG Media to retrospectively put an extra 50 per cent on top of the fees currently paid to freelance journalists.

Photojournalists Britt van Uem and Ruud Rogier were supported in their court case by the NVJ - the Dutch sister union of the NUJ – and by the Dutch photographers' association NVF. Britt worked for local newspaper Tubantia and her colleague Ruud worked for the Brabantse Dagblad. Both these local titles are owned by DPG Media, until recently known as Persgroep, which operates a near-monopoly in local print media in the Netherlands as well as in the Dutch-speaking region of Belgium. Both journalists had stopped working for Persgroep before bringing their case.

The NVJ's Secretary for Independents (freelances) Rosa Garcia Lopez in a press release praised Britt and Ruud for "sticking their necks out" not just for themselves but for the benefit of all their fellow journalists. She added that the new 50 per cent higher tariffs resulting from the court ruling are still an "absolute minimum" rather than a suggested market rate. Britt said that the judge had ruled that freelances must be valued and compensated in the same way as their staffer colleagues.

Otto Volgenant, lawyer for Ruud and Britt, said that the €42 per photo that Ruud received was for between two and a half and three hours of his time, while Britt put in about four hours for her article for which she was paid 13 cents a word. Otto added that DPG Media/Persgroep's profits were around €100 million a year. Lopez in a tweet shortly after the judgement said that the NVJ and DPG Media were now "in talks".

The case was based on the relatively new Auteurscontractenwet (Authors' Contracts Act), which states that remuneration for a commission must be "fair" and if necessary a judge can determine what is fair.