World Journalists Join Protest Over French Assault on Authors' Rights

The International Federation of Journalists today warned that a French government plan to strip journalists of their authors' rights posed a major threat to the European tradition of protection for creators and writers.

"This move should be stopped in its tracks," said Aidan White, General Secretary of the IFJ, "If not, thousands of journalists throughout Europe face a wholesale assault on their livelihoods. It is also a potential threat to freedom of expression."

The IFJ is joining the protest of its four French affiliates who yesterday issued an open letter to French President Jacques Chirac calling for him to reject plans to amend existing copyright law so that existing journalists' rights are transferred in full to their employers.

A month ago the French Minister for Culture, Jean Jacques Aillagon, commissioned the State Adviser Raphael Hadas-Lebel to investigate assignments of authors' rights under employment contracts. It appears that Hadas-Lebel proposes the complete assignment of employees' authors' rights to their employers.

In the open letter IFJ affiliates say that authorizing the transfer of authors' rights under an employment contract would contradict the International Berne Convention on authors' rights (to which France is a signatory) and could pave the way for the introduction of the Anglo-American copyright system in France.

"This initiative is potentially a great leap backwards," said Aidan White," It is a disastrous proposal from a country that has a long tradition of authors' rights protection, where authors have been allowed a remuneration for their works."

The IFJ says assignment of authors' rights should always be subject to negotiation under employment contracts thus encouraging the freedom of information and of expression. French unions are holding crucial meeting today with government officials and the issue is top of the agenda at the annual congress of the IFJ's largest affiliate, the SNJ, which is meeting this week. The crisis will also be discussed by the IFJ International Executive Board, which meets this weekend in Brussels.