Journalists Need International Legal Power to Bargain for Authors’ Rights Protection says IFJ

Journalists, particularly those working freelance, need international legal protection to negotiate and bargain with employers who are increasingly using industrial muscle to snatch control of authors’ rights. “The balance of power in the media industry has swung disastrously against the right of journalists to maintain ownership and control of their work,” says the International Federation of Journalists in a statement today to mark World Copyright Day.

The IFJ says authors’ rights are a key to editorial independence, a guarantor of media quality and a powerful weapon in the fight against falling standards in journalism.

World Copyright Day, celebrated by the United Nations cultural agency UNESCO, is the moment to recognise that “the individual journalist, who is secure in his or her rights provides the essential ingredient for ethical journalism as well as independence and diversity within media,” says the IFJ 

“In order to do their job responsibly and in the public interest journalists need ownership and control of their work. Authors’ rights protection is a precondition for good journalism as well as ensuring that journalists are entitled to earn a decent living.” 

The IFJ, which represents more than 500 000 journalists around the world, says international legal rules recognise the economic and moral rights of journalists. The Federation has condemned strongly actions by publishers and producers in Europe to water down levels of protection. In particular, they cite attempts to introduce the Anglo-American work for hire system, whereby authors’ rights are directly transferred to the employer unless otherwise agreed.

“Attempts to change the rules in favour of media owners will only weaken authors and journalists in their efforts to get a fair deal through contract negotiations. There is already a serious imbalance in the power relations between owners and journalists, whether staff or freelance, and this will only get worse if European standards are diluted,” says the IFJ.

However, this is a worldwide crisis says the IFJ. Journalists should enjoy free negotiations rights wherever they operate. “This is more important than ever because new forms of exploitation have eased the worldwide dissemination of journalistic works. The impact of globalisation, media mergers and competition for work create difficult choices for journalists who too often become black listed when asking for influence and fair remuneration on the re-use of their articles or photographs.” 

The IFJ says international legislators must restore the fair balance in negotiations through special contractual protection of individuals to prevent the wholesale purchase of all rights that are becoming commonplace within the International media industry. 

“Collective bargaining rights remain the foundation for agreements between employees and the companies they work for. And there is no basis for further tipping the scales in favour of the publishers and producers.”

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