The National Union of Journalists has labelled as "iniquitous" a new contract Archant East London is pushing to its photographers.
The freelance contract, which was unveiled on 12 October, requires that photographers assign to Archant "the entire copyright whether vested contingent or future and all rights of action and all other rights of whatever nature in and to the product of the Services whether now known or in future created to which you are now or may at any time in future be entitled for the entire period of such rights throughout the world together with any renewals reversion and extensions."
The contract also calls for photographers to waive all of their moral rights "to which you may be entitled under any legislation now existing or in future enacted in any part of the world."
In return, photographers will be paid no more than £35 per picture used in print or £19 on the Internet.
The contract, which applies to Archant's local newspapers such as the Hackney Gazette, is ridiculous, according to the NUJ.
"The implications are clear: the photographer assigns full copyright to Archant - for £35. This is simply ridiculous, and no photographer will be able to earn a living from this contract," NUJ's freelance organiser John Toner tells BJP. "In fact, the photographers would be subsidising Archant by working for a fee that does not cover their costs and giving up their right to further income from the work. No professional photographer will be able to work under this contract, so Archant will be left with amateurs and hobbyists. The quality of the photographs they publish will drop dramatically, and their readers will have to accept publications of an inferior quality."
The contract also requires that photographers be liable for any damages or costs that might arise from the publication of their images. "Archant is asking for a warranty that no lawyer on the planet could give, far less a freelance photographer," says Toner. "They expect the freelance to assume all the liability, and this could be literally ruinous to the freelance. It is a thoroughly iniquitous contract."
The NUJ has written to Archant, but has "not had the common courtesy of a response. We are organising freelances on an email network, and I have drafted a response to the contract that we are asking freelances to sign up to."
UPDATE: "The contract referred to is in fact an old contract which has been in place, in Archant's East London operation only, for many years," claims an Archant spokesman, who contacted BJP on 07 November. "It is currently being reviewed by the local editorial management team and a new one will be issued once the review is complete."
UPDATE 2: John Toner, of the National Union of Journalists, has answered Archant's statement, asking why the "old contracts" start from October 2011, as mentioned in section 1.1 of the agreement. He adds: "If Archant are to review the contract in a way that makes it more acceptable to freelances, we would welcome this. The NUJ would be more than happy to assist."
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