Quality and high standards in journalism are what counts in the fight for authors' rights said the International Federation of Journalists, the world's largest journalists' group, today in a statement to mark World Copyright Day on April 23rd.
The IFJ says that journalists' unions fighting for recognition of their rights in the world of Internet and converged media technologies are striking a blow for ethical and high quality journalism.
"Journalists who insist on their right to be consulted and to be paid for the reuse of their work are setting benchmarks for quality content that will benefit the whole of the profession," says the IFJ, which last year launched a worldwide campaign to secure authors' rights.
Since the first World Copyright Day in April 2001, the world has seen positive developments says the IFJ: the adoption of the Directive on Copyright and Related Rights by the European Council of Ministers, a victory in the United States Supreme Court for freelance journalists in the United States, who stood up against the bad copyright practices of the New York Times, and a successful struggle for the German for a new copyright contract law.
At the same time, in countries like Greece and Sweden, journalists' unions have successfully taken strike action to ensure strong authors' rights protection in their collective agreements.
"The fight for authors' rights brings quality to journalism and is a key part of the on-going battle for decent working conditions," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary, "Only a journalist who holds strong moral rights over his or her work, will feel entirely responsible for it."
The IFJ admits that the economic recession, which strongly affected the media sector, and the impact of mergers in the industry have not helped improve the situation of authors since the UNESCO launched World Copyright Day last year.
Although in the field of legislation and jurisdiction, some significant achievements have been made, the poor enforcement of the existent legislation and a failure to include authors' rights clauses in collective agreements are still major problems.
"More than ever solidarity is needed when it comes to authors' rights. The contract one signs today, if it fails the test of authors' rights protection, will undermine standards in the media," said White, "Short-sighted solutions are no answer the questions posed by new technologies and the uncertain future of the information industry."
Too often, says the IFJ, journalists are forced to sacrifice their authors' rights to keep their job. The hardest pressure was on the freelance journalists many of who are being forced to sign contracts that sweep away their rights and create deplorable conditions. "Competition for work and ruthless employers are creating intolerable choices for journalists," says the IFJ, "In the end it is the protection of authors' rights that suffers."
The IFJ notes that the European Union is reviewing the different ways rights are managed in all over Europe including the role of the collecting societies in the digital environment and the possible use of Digital Rights Management Systems.
"Journalists and their associations will have to follow this process closely in order to make sure that their interests and not the publishers' interests are being defended," says the IFJ.
Continental Europe remains a stronghold for authors' rights against the pressure from traditions in Anglo-American countries where weaker protection is offered under the copyright system.
"The IFJ Authors' Rights Campaign aims to improve the journalists' legal situation," says White. "We aim to put Authors' Rights protection into all collective agreements for freelance and staff members. Only when this is done can we begin to be hopeful of long-term protection for quality, high standards and decent working conditions in journalism."