NUJ Issues Response Advice to Herald Freelancers

Freelance contributors to The Herald group of newspapers who are unhappy at new terms and conditions being offered to them are being advised by the National Union of Journalists as to how they might best respond.

Yesterday, reported (here) how the group – comprising The Herald, Sunday Herald and Evening Times – says it is not prepared to use freelancers who decline to accept the new contract, which covers minimum fees, copyright and expenses. Being offered, for instance, is £30 for a sports match report and £115 for a reporting or sub-editing shift.

And the NUJ's assistant organiser in Scotland, Jim McNally, and NUJ president, James Doherty, have compiled a suggested response they believe freelancers will wish to use should they be disgruntled at what is being offered.

It has been written for writers, so photographers, for instance, would be required to make any necessary amendments to reflect their situation. In an email widely circulated yesterday, the NUJ was warning particularly over the copyright proposals from The Herald group.

The suggested response reads: “Without prejudice – Dear Mr Thomson [group managing editor] – I am in receipt of your letter of July 17 and the enclosed Freelance Terms and Conditions.
“The proposed Freelance Terms and Conditions are unacceptable for the following reasons:
“1. Sub-heading Content, first paragraph, the words from 'an irrevocable licence worldwide…' to…'including print, digital and online'. This paragraph states that the copyright would remain mine but then proceeds to say in the words referred to above that I would give the Group an irrevocable licence. The effect of these words is to negate the value of the copyright and to undermine the spirit of copyright law. This is underlined by the demand for a licence enduring for the full period of copyright.
“2. The words, 'and to allow other persons to do any of the foregoing, for the following purposes'.
Your lawyers are less precise than they might be. These words may give the impression that the foregoing rights assigned by the proposed licence is limited by what follows, eg limited to Group products. However, I believe that the licence as worded will not be limited by the subsequent paragraphs.
“3. Sub-paragraph 1. iii. Any syndication arrangement which requires a 50 per cent payment to the Group should be paid gross to the contributor. Otherwise the Group is the sole arbiter of its 'necessary incidental costs'.
“4. Sub-paragraph 1. iv. Your demand for unlimited licensing rights to individual and businesses is unacceptable. It also appears to breach your own sub-paragraph 1. iii.
“5. Sub-paragraph 1. v. Again, your demand for unlimited licensing rights without consultation or negotiation is unacceptable.
“6. Sub-paragraph 4. iii b). The words of this sub-paragraph would prevent me quoting from my own material in previous stories on the same subject, no matter how relevant, and even if published in Group 'products'.
“7. Paragraph 6. Neither the Group nor your unnamed licensees may use the content, my name, likeness and/or biographical information for advertising or promotional purposes without my specific permission. This is necessary to protect my reputation as an independent journalist.
“8. Annex A. The proposed minimum rates contain no increase or element for the wide-ranging rights your Term and Conditions propose to attempt to take.
“9. Annex C. In the rare cases where I use my car for stories, the proposed mileage rate is half my mileage rate and I will not be cutting this.
“I note that the proposed Terms and Conditions were due to come into effect on August 1 and are not intended to be retrospective. I intend to complete any current commissions on my existing terms and conditions. After that date, I shall remain available for commissions on my existing terms and conditions.
“I note Paragraph 3 and hereby formally request a meeting to agree the variation of the proposed Terms and Conditions to bring them into line with my existing terms and conditions, or at the very least to accommodate the points made above.
“This e-mail is without prejudice to any other rights or to other issues which may arise in the course of any discussions, consultation or negotiation with colleagues or the Group.
“Yours sincerely………..”

The NUJ's Scottish Organiser, Paul Holleran, is on holiday.

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