Staff journalists must not be stripped of authors’ rights

IN COUNTRIES where legislation automatically strips journalists and photographers of all their authors’ rights on entering employment, the individual journalist or photographer is not able to play an active part in safeguarding the authenticity and integrity of his or her works. The same goes for freelances in countries with a legislation or bad practices that place freelances in the same unpro-tected position as their employed colleagues.

IN MOST EUROPEAN COUNTRIES legislation and/or court practices support a situation where the newspaper or TV station acquires the rights of use that are necessary to conduct the normal publishing or broadcasting activities whether the work contract or collective agreement specifies this or not.

Unless otherwise specified all other rights of use remain with the journalist who on the other hand will not be able to use these rights for purposes that are harmful to or compete with the business of his or her workplace.

THE ADVANTAGES of this legal system that combines legally protected minimum rights with free negotiations are many:

• It gives the journalists the possibility of setting standards in connection with individual or collective agreements on reuse of editorial material

• The journalists, for example, can demand the right in specific circumstances to notate on an interview, article or photo that it cannot be reused or used in a certain way.

• The journalists can negotiate a fixed fee or royalty as payment for the further rights of use.

• The negotiating process and the common interests in the outcome of the reuse activities is a good incentive.

• It adds quality to the new business projects that co-operation is necessitated. Many mistakes are avoided because the individual journalists are more focused on content where the media innovators will be more focused on business concepts, advertiser gains etc.

• If a car salesman copies an article informing the consumers of the qualities of a new car model (or possibly the lack of qualities of a competitors model) and uses it for advertising purposes the journalist will be able to take the car salesman to court for not having asked permission and thereby setting an example to prevent future derogatory use of independent editorial consumer information.

EUROPEAN PUBLISHERS, broadcasters, film and television producers do not agree. They argue that

• They should naturally own all the results that stem from work hours they have paid for.

• That negotiations are time consuming, unnecessary and that the results are expensive and that they should be spared the bother.

• And that the European publishers, audiovisual producers and net media are set back in their ability to compete with the media and entertainment industries of the US and UK.

BUT PUBLISHERS get the rights of use that they pay for in the European tradition as well. In the many countries where collective agreements on Internet uses and other further use have been neces-sary, such agreements have been entered into and function very well. The agreements typically au-thorize assorted uses on certain ethical conditions (professional journalistic handling, credits, pro-tection of sources etc.) and where the further use is commercial also on condition of a share in the pure extra profits.

The results of having to co-operate and negotiate are normally mutual respect and understanding, higher involvement and a clearer sense of mutual interests. This is exactly what is needed in order to create content of a higher quality. And this again is the most sought after commodity and perhaps the most important factor in future regarding the ability to compete.

IN SOME COUNTRIES journalists and photographers are not even able to claim moral rights. These are the basic human rights to be named the author of ones work, and to claim protection against derogatory changes or use of ones work. These rights are for example denied all journalists and photographers (reporting on current affairs) in the UK and Ireland.

ONE SHOULD BE ABLE TO TAKE IT FOR GRANTED in a democratic society that journalism, press photography, TV-reporting and documentaries are clearly defined as works protected by au-thors’ rights. After all the independence, the ethical standards and the quality of the press material is first and foremost dependent of the individual journalist or photographer.

THE INDIVIDUAL RESPONSIBILITY of journalists (whether it is a staff journalist or a free-lance) and the need for authentication so obviously calls for the protection of authors’ rights. This is particularly important where re-use is concerned and the type of extended reuse that is made possi-ble by Internet.

EUROPE MUST STICK to the traditions built on the respect for the rights of the individual. Money is a powerful persuader and the media and entertainment industries have such dominating positions in comparison with their staff journalists (and their organisations) that it lacks all credibility that acquiring the necessary rights should constitute a real problem.

In the international struggle between the “work-for-hire” systems that regard employed journalist as writing puppets for their editorial chiefs and the European system building on the rights of the indi-vidual, the European Union must stand up for the latter.

EVERYONE AGREES on the necessity of a free press. We all wish for the press to be diverse and for it to live up to high standards of press conduct as defined in each of our individual democratic countries.

WE KNOW that the press plays a very important role in our society and in our professional and private lives. Surely any change should be for the better. For better quality and better standards.

Anne Louise Schelin

Authors’ Rights Expert Group (AREG)