Electronic copyright and freelancers

Awhile back in class, I brought up the fact that I had heard that
freelance journalists were being given a hard time of it with reprint
rights on works distributed electronically.  I haven't had the time to
read all of my listserv stuff for awhile, but this one was in today's
posting about the New York Times, Village Voice, Family Circle and others
being less than fair...  

Serena Fenton

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 28 Feb 1997 15:39:04 -0500
From: AOL User <RAINDEAD@aol.com>
Reply-To: "Information, motivation, and inspiration for every writer"
Subject: 2/28/97 Part II

ASJA CONTRACTS WATCH 42 (vol 4, #3)     CW970227     February 27, 1997

[The American Society of Journalists and Authors encourages
reproduction and distribution of this document for the benefit of
freelance writers. Reprint or post as many items as you wish, but
please credit ASJA for the information and don't change the content.]



PARENTING, which had earned praise from writers for a fairly decent
contract that editors were free to make even better, has moved from
San Francisco to New York, near parent Time Inc.'s headquarters. It
isn't good for a grown child to live too close to home.

A nearly all-new Parenting editorial staff has been handed a revised
contract for freelancers. In it, what was one of the fairest warranty
clauses in the industry has become unreasonably tough. Worse, the
electronic rights clause has been unacceptably broadened. The old
agreement offered a small fee for broad e-rights for a limited time;
editors were free to narrow the license considerably. The new version
wants nearly all e-rights forever for the same small fee, and editors
say they're no longer free to fix things.

If so, best bet now for Parenting freelancers would be a switch to
CHILD and PARENTS, where Gruner + Jahr's overreaching contract can be
made perfectly acceptable with some pen strokes.

Back in San Francisco, Parenting's sister magazine, HEALTH, continues
to use the old contract.


Like Child and Parents, FAMILY CIRCLE (also from Gruner + Jahr)
continues to be reasonable about cleaning up its contract on request.
Another writer reports that an editor pleasantly agreed to the
ASJA-recommended changes in FC's standard terms. A fairer initial
offer would save editors' and writers' time and avoid the appearance
that the publisher is playing Find the Fool.


The VILLAGE VOICE, in its president's eyes, is the freelancer's
friend. Writing to the New York Times (Feb. 22) in reply to a Feb. 19
letter critical of the Voice's new rights policy, David Schneiderman
misrepresents the newspaper's contract by insisting it asks "only" a
month's exclusivity. After that, he crows, freelancers "will be free
to do whatever they please with their work." Like a well-coached
witness, he conveniently omits the rest of the story.

Those freelancers will be competing with the Voice. Under the terms
demanded, after the exclusivity period the newspaper locks onto the
right to reuse and sublicense articles--on paper and
electronically--forever. For certain print reuses, some payment is
offered; others the Voice wants for free, and for perpetual electronic
reuse it offers not a sou.

That's hardly a fair deal, and freelancers know it. Word is that
precious few have given in. Says a Voice source: "Those who've signed
are not names anyone would recognize."


And if the Voice isn't telling the whole story, what of the NEW YORK
TIMES? According to the freelance writer whose note in the Times
prompted the Voice's defense attempt, his letter as submitted
contained a paragraph noting that the Times, too, "tries to squeeze
writers like lemons." The paragraph was cut.