More than 200 contributors to three of Bauer Media's music magazines - Kerrang!, Mojo and Q - are protesting the roll-out on 16 April of new contracts that strip photographers of all of their copyrights and moral rights, while transferring legal liability to the contributors. However, Bauer Media is sticking to its guns and is confident the contracts will be accepted
As reported by BJP in February, Bauer Media, one of the UK's largest publishing companies, is rolling out new contracts to its freelance photographers and writers, grabbing 'in perpetuity' all of their copyrights and moral rights.
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 in February to freelancers working on Bauer Media's music portfolio. While Bauer Media caved in by removing some of the rights-grabbing rhetoric for some of its contributors, the publishing house has made clear that it will continue to pursue copyright transfer. Moreover, the new contracts also transfer liability from Bauer Media to contributors, in effect exposing them to potential costly legal proceedings.
Now, contributors to Kerrang!, Mojo and Q are refusing to sign the new contracts, despite assurances that Bauer Media will cease to deal with any photographers and writers that haven't accepted the new terms.
A spokeswoman for Bauer Media dismisses the number of freelancers protesting the new contracts. She says: "With regards to speculation currently circulating, the figure of 200 freelancers is considerably higher than the number of freelancers we currently use on our entertainment magazines; we have received signed contracts from many freelancers and indications of acceptance from many more; and we are in one-to-one conversations with our contributors, and remain confident we will continue to work with them."
In a bid to justify the new contracts, the spokeswoman says that "Bauer Media is currently seeking new contract terms with our music magazine freelancers to enable us to use commissioned material across other brands, digital platforms, international editions and any new revenue streams. The ways consumers are choosing to engage with our brand content is changing and Bauer Media needs to be firmly placed to take advantage of opportunities as they arise."
She adds: "This is a Bauer Media wide policy and such contracts have already been introduced across our Specialist brands in Peterborough, incl Max Power and MCN. The current phase covers all our Music titles, with the rest of the London-based magazine brands to follow in due course. We are keen to continue working with all our contributors and believe our new terms and conditions for commissioning contributors and photographers are still among the very best in the industry."
With regards to indemnity, she says, "across the industry, freelancers are responsible for ensuring that the material they provide is their own original work, does not infringe the copyright, moral rights, rights of privacy or any other rights of a third party or is not defamatory. The onus is on the freelancer to secure permission and necessary licenses. If those permissions cannot be secured, the freelancer is required to notify the commissioning company."
Read our previous report - Bauer Media facing rights-grab furore (24 February).
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