(en) Electronic Rights for freelance journalists

Saul Chernos (schernos@freenet.toronto.on.ca)
Wed, 15 Oct 1997 23:54:43 -0400 (EDT)

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At the annual convention of the Canadian Association of Journalists last May in Edmonton, Alta., members took a stand on the issue of electronic rights for freelance journalists. Five months later, the CAJ national board has issued a news release announcing this stand. Read on. It's interesting how the print media are abusing contract workers. Of course, staff journalists should be very concerned. If the bosses can get the freelancers to work on the cheap, they won't be needing the staffers.

Saul Chernos Freelance journalist and CAJ member schernos@torfree.net


September 16, 1997 (Ottawa) Stemming from an adoption made at its recent annual general meeting, the Canadian Association of Journalists is publicly supporting freelance writers in their bid to protect their electronic copyrights.

In Canada, freelance writers have always licensed specific uses of their work to publishers. Standard practice is to license the right to publish or broadcast the material once. Any additional usage such as a second printing, syndication and movies is negotiated separately. However, the advent of electronic communications -- particularly the Internet -- has made it relatively easy for publications to share copy and publish to a global audience on the world wide web.

Many publications have failed to pay writers an additional fee for the electronic re-use of copy. In many cases, writers were not even notified that their copy would be shared or placed on the web. Often, writers have been asked to sign contracts handing over all rights to the publisher, without any added compensation.

The CAJ feels the violation of electronic copyright hinders the ability of freelance writers to sell articles to different publications in different markets, something they need to do in order to earn a living.

Therefore, in response to concerns raised by freelance members, two motions were recently approved: Be it resolved that the Canadian Association of Journalists support the efforts of writers, individually and collectively, to protect their copyrights and to receive fair compensation for all uses; and Be it resolved that the Canadian Association of Journalists' national board of directors direct the Canadian Association of Journalist's advocacy committee to make copyright protection a priority activity.

"CAJ members strongly oppose the undermining of freelance journalists' ability to control the sale of their intellectual property," said Tom Arnold, the group's national president. Arnold said the message has been clearly stated at the CAJ's 1996 annual general meeting in St. John's and its 1997 meeting in Edmonton.

The CAJ has condemned the action of newspaper and magazine publishers who are imposing unfair contracts on freelance writers, photographers and illustrators. Under these contracts, publishers take the right to use freelance work over and over, or offer it to other publications, paying little or nothing for the privilege. The CAJ has called on publishers to discontinue the practice and work cooperatively with freelancers.

In Edmonton this year, a panel was convened to address the issue of electronic copyright. Heather Robertson, a writer based in King City, Ontario, spoke about class action lawsuits freelance writers are seeking to initiate to protect their copyrights.

The Canadian Association of Journalists is a national non-profit advocacy and professional development organization serving Canadian journalists from all media. Established in 1980, and counting more than 1,500 active members, the CAJ's next convention, "Women in the Media" will be held in Winnipeg, November 7-9. The CAJ's national convention - our 20th anniversary - will be held in Toronto next April. Based in Ottawa, the CAJ is run by a volunteer board of professional journalists and acts as a political advocate for members of the Canadian journalistic community.


For more information, call Rob Henderson, the CAJ's executive director at 613-526-8061 or Tom Arnold, national president at 403-429-5455.


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