Letter to Tómas Ingi Olrich, Icelandic Minister for Education, Science and Culture, 9th January 2004

Minister for Education Science and Culture
Tómas Ingi Olrich
Ministry for Education Science and Culture
Sölvhólsgötu 4
150 Reykjavík

Dear Sir

The European Federation of Journalists, representing more than 200 000 journalists in Europe, is deeply concerned over the recent moves by the Nordic Newspaper Publishers’ Cooperation Board (Nordiska Tidningsutgivarnas Samarbetsnämnd) to amend the authors’ rights acts of the Nordic countries by introducing the Anglo-American work-for-hire doctrine.

The Danish Chapter Three Committee is currently discussing a possible revision of the Danish authors’ rights legislation and the EFJ strongly recommends that this committee maintain the current and well-functioning Danish legislation, in order to secure journalists’ rights to free negotiations and to defend quality and independence of the press.

The Berne Convention enacted in 1886 was undersigned by all Nordic countries and recognises the economic and moral rights of authors, including journalists. All creators of journalistic works whether they are working as staff or freelance currently enjoy authors’ rights protection for the work that they produce. This is essential both for supplying the media with quality content and for journalists to make a living.

New forms of exploitation of journalistic content have encouraged media companies to promote the work-for-hire doctrine, whereby authors’ rights would be automatically transferred to employers through the mere act of employment. The work-for-hire doctrine in reality denies the right for any author to negotiate the extent of the transfer of his rights to the employer. It also denies the author the right to give his authorisation for the reuse of his work and to receive an equitable remuneration for it.

The right of collective bargaining enables journalists to have influence on the conditions of their working contract. The extent of transfer of their authors’ rights is an important part of this. The introduction of a work-for-hire doctrine in the Nordic countries would infringe the system of free collective bargaining and at the same time lead to a situation where journalists no longer are able to assert their rights when third parties use press material for advertising purposes or other purposes that are in violation of good press conduct.

Considering the fact that the authors’ rights acts of the Nordic countries have proved to be highly efficient, encouraging collective agreements and co-operation, the EFJ strongly recommends that the Nordic governments refrain from introducing the Anglo-American copyright principles of work-for-hire which effectively would ruin these well-functioning systems.

Yours sincerely,

Aidan White
General Secretary of the EFJ