The European Federation of Journalists today called on the German government to stand firm on plans for reform of the country's copyright contract law in order to end injustices in the relationship between creators and those who profit from creators' work.
The EFJ, which is part of the International Federation of Journalists, the world's largest journalists' group, is campaigning worldwide for changes in copyright laws to create a structure in which authors and publishers can negotiate as equals.
"The current situation is weighted heavily in favour of publishers if the creators are not compensated adequate for each use of their works," said Aidan White, General Secretary of the EFJ, "Creators organisations must be given the legal right to negotiate collective agreements for their members including freelances. Germany looked like setting high standards for Europe as a whole, but we are afraid that the state's new law may be changed beyond recognition as a result of publisher lobbying."
The EFJ is calling on the Governing coalition of Chancellor Schroeder to stick to its earlier promises of far-reaching reform of authors' rights law. Journalists unions are particularly anxious to ensure that their freelance and staff members can legally negotiate extra payments when their work is used in new electronic forms such as the Internet or on digital databases and CD Rom.
The latest version of the draft copyright contract law, which is due to be voted on by Parliament in January, has removed some of the reforms earlier promised. "Journalists throughout Europe are striving to get the best deal for authors' rights," said Aidan White, "we all hope, even now, that Germany will set a standard for others to follow."
Journalists and other creators all over Europe have had the highest expectations about the German draft law and have followed the controversies between creators rights associations and publishers closely. Intellectual property rights are the gold dust of the information era, says the EFJ, and big media companies have invested heavily in campaigning to keep control of creators' works.
High standards in authors' rights legislation are vital for all creators and for journalists because they guarantee quality and authenticity of information, as the writers are personally liable for the material they create. The EFJ says that new communication technology opens up new ways of exploiting the works of journalists and authors and, therefore, moral rights as well as economic rights have to be well protected to enable journalists to work professionally.
"Europe has been waiting for a clear signal from Germany and we still hope that it will come," says Aidan White.