World Journalists Welcome Fresh Legal Victory For US Freelance in Authors' Rights Battle

The International Federation of Journalists, the world's largest journalists' group, has welcomed a new court ruling in the United States as a further blow for "author's rights against employers' greed".

In June the US Supreme Court defined Anglo-American Copyright Law in favour of authors in a landmark ruling against the New York Times, now a new favorable ruling has been made by the Supreme Court in the case of a freelance photographer working for National Geographic.

Jerry Greenberg sued after he found that his pictures were reused electronically without his permission. The court has ruled that he should be paid. The verdict is a further recognition of freelance rights, says the IFJ.

Greenberg's case arose after National Geographic had sold a CD-ROM including computer versions of issues from 1888 to 1996. Greenberg said that the CD release not only had music and new advertisement but also other items that had not been included in the original versions on it. This, he said, meant that it was a new product, which gave freelancers the right to re-imbursement.

"The IFJ welcomes this court victory," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary, "it reaffirms our position that the rights of individual creators cannot be set aside in the rush to exploit new technologies."

The Supreme Court verdict, issued last week, says journalists have rights in regards to their work posted on the Internet. The Court rejected an appeal regarding reprinted photos from the National Geographic, which insisted it would be impossible to find all freelance journalists whose stories and photographs were used in each of the issues.

"This argument is revealing to the degree that it shows how extensive has been the abuse of journalists' rights," said Aidan White. "There would have been no problem had the company sought permission before reproducing the work of its contributors.

He said every publisher would be well advised to ask freelancers for their permission before rushing to cash in on new digital and Internet products.