A meeting of some of the most experienced freelance contributors to The Herald group of newspapers last night unanimously rejected new terms and conditions being offered by the publishers.
Three dozen writers and photographers packed into a room at the Holiday Inn in West Nile Street, Glasgow, for the meeting, organised by the National Union of Journalists, to discuss the terms which covers, among other things, a revised set of minimum payments and also copyright, and which publishers, Newsquest, require to be signed as a prerequesite for getting work.
The journalists were particularly concerned about what they perceive to be an attempted 'copyright grab'. The proposed new terms state that freelances would grant The Herald group – comprising The Herald, Sunday Herald and Evening Times – “an irrevocable licence worldwide… to use and re-use the content” for the full period of copyright [70 years after the creator’s death] and in any medium, including print, digital and online.
Last night’s meeting, chaired by NUJ president, James Doherty, was addressed by intellectual property lawyer, Campbell Deane, who spelled out the extent of the rights the company is seeking.
The meeting called on all freelances not to sign the proposed terms, to write to the company saying they were available for work on their existing terms and to make clear that any work submitted was on those existing terms.
The meeting also called on the NUJ to set up a fund to help any members incurring hardship as a result of the decision. NUJ officials and leading freelances will meet with Mr Deane later this week to begin work on drafting counter-proposals.
“Even if I were not in the NUJ, I couldn’t sign these terms,” said one freelance who was at the meeting. “They would take away all my rights to anything I produced for the company in the future.
“Frankly, though, I think they need us. When the last version of these terms was sent out in May, a large number of freelances e-mailed back to say they couldn’t accept the terms. Within days, I was told by my commissioning editor it was ‘business as usual’ and I continued supplying the papers on my existing terms.”
This was backed up by NUJ Scottish Organiser, Paul Holleran. “The company can’t get enough decent material without the freelances,” he said. “The staff are struggling as it is.
“If the company tried to ditch these experienced freelances there would be pandemonium. The more freelances who politely but firmly tell the company they will continue working on their existing terms, until new terms are negotiated rather than imposed, the more likely we are to get a fair agreement.”
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