European Journalists Demand New Protection for Authors’ Rights as Brussels Takes a Fresh Look at Ownership Law

The European Federation of Journalists, which brings together more than 200,000 journalists within the European Union and beyond, has issued an appeal to national unions and associations to press for increased intellectual property protection for journalists under European Union law.

“Authors’ rights and the trade unions’ right to bargain and freely negotiate are human rights,” says Aidan White, European Federation of Journalists General Secretary. “Any forced legal transfer of authors’ rights in an employment contract would challenge these rights, undermine diversity and quality in journalism and hinder freedom of expression.”

In a letter to its affiliates within the European Union network of countries, the EFJ is calling for journalists’ groups to make a robust response to a recent Commission call for opinions about the issue of ownership of authors’ rights in the employment contract.

The EFJ says new forms of exploitation of journalistic content have encouraged media companies to promote the work-for-hire doctrine, whereby authors’ rights are automatically transferred to employers, without further consultation on re-use. Journalists and photographers, both staff and freelance have faced numerous attempts by publishers to grab their authors’ rights. In France, Belgium and the Nordic countries employers have lobbied governments to ease copyright protection rules to the disadvantage of journalists and authors.

The European Commission consultation about recent law making covering intellectual property poses questions about ownership of rights and the capacity of the European Union to harmonise Community law. Journalists expect new attempts by employers to grab their rights.

“Employers are looking to seize all rights, even in countries where there is strong authors’ rights protection. They will use this consultation, which concludes on October 31st to press once again for erosion of authors’ rights law in Europe,” says the EFJ.

The EFJ says unions should raise their voice by lobbying governments and the EU. “Any harmonization of European law should favour the highest level of protection of employees’ authors’ rights. Any legislation that would introduce a transfer of authors’ rights in the employment contract should be strongly rejected,” concludes the EFJ.

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The European Federation of Journalists represents over 200,000 in more 40 countries