Bauer Media, which publishes titles such as Closer, Grazia, FHM, Practical Photography and Empire among many others, first introduced the contracts in 2008 across some of its specialist brands based in Peterborough. The new contract includes a clause that requires freelancers and photographers to transfer all of their rights to Bauer Media.
It reads: 'By signing and returning this agreement to us, you irrevocably and unconditionally assign to us in perpetuity by way of present assignment of present and future copyright, the entire copyrights and all other rights and title of any kind in the Commissioned Works throughout the world (including any amendments and extensions to that copyright). You hereby irrevocably waive any and all moral rights you have in the Commissioned Works.'
The contracts were rolled out last week to freelancers working on Bauer Media's music portfolio, with the other London-based magazines to follow in the near future.
John Toner, freelance organiser at the National Union of Journalists, has called the terms outrageous. 'This is a straightforward transfer of copyright from the freelancer to the publisher, and I have to say it's horrendous. We've been trying to get freelancers to resist this contract. If Bauer want professional journalists to work for them, they need to realise that this requires professional terms and conditions. These are the terms you would expect from a cat-burglar.'
However, Bauer Media is adamant that the changes will come into force across all of its titles. 'The media landscape in which Bauer Media operates is changing at an ever-increasing rate,' says a Bauer Media spokeswoman. 'The company has already seen a fundamental change in most of its brands from magazines to multi-platform products and has been extremely proactive in launching websites, live events, TV and radio stations.'
She continues: 'The ways in which audiences choose to engage with our content and their expectations of media will continue to change and Bauer Media needs to be firmly placed to take advantage of new revenue streams and opportunities as they arise. To that end, Bauer Media is seeking new standard contract terms with freelancers to enable us to re-use commissioned material across other brands, digital platforms and any new ways its consumers choose to engage with brand content.'
When asked about the waiver of a freelancer's moral rights, the spokeswoman says that Bauer Media 'thinks this is standard where rights in a work are being fully transferred but, as mentioned in the form, it is not intended that Bauer Media would amend the works other than as required to meet our usual editorial standards and Bauer Media would credit an author or photographer except where impractical'.
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