Herald group continues to urge freelancers to sign new contract

OVER 200 people are said to have signed a freelance contract at The Herald group of newspapers, despite concerns about rates and copyright.

Says a letter to freelancers from the group’s managing editor, Tom Thomson, the new terms “takes account of the new group editorial structure”.

Begins Thomson, who opens by saying over 200 people have agreed to the terms: “[The contract] brings our terms and conditions into the digital age where the boundaries between different media types – text, pictures, audio and video – and different outlets – print, web, mobile, etc – are becoming increasingly blurred.”

Freelancers are being required to sign the contract as a pre-requisite to being commissioned. The National Union of Journalists has expressed its dismay at the copyright terms. It has already issued freelancers suggested wording as to how they might reject the terms without necessarily jeopardising their chances of getting work.

The new terms were first issued in July.

Only the other day, a former executive editor at The Herald, Gordon Mack, publicly declared his unwillingness to supply The Herald, in his current capacity as a freelance, because of the rates.

In his letter, Thomson seeks to reassure people about the use and re-use terms. “Freelancers submitting material retain the copyright to their work but in return for our payment we have exclusive use from the time the material is received until 24 hours after our first publication after which they are free to sell the content wherever they wish. We retain copyright for material created by freelancers working shifts.”

He continues: “It was disappointing that a former Herald executive who left the company two years ago after taking voluntary redundancy criticised the agreement today on a trade web site.

“We believe the terms are fair for the current circumstances in which the regional newspaper industry finds itself and are clearly acceptable to a large number of freelancers, whose contribution to our print and digital titles we appreciate and value.”

Update: The NUJ in Scotland issued the following statement: “Anyone working as a freelance contributor retains full copyright in the material they produce. The NUJ would urge members to exercise extreme caution before signing any agreement which dilutes their rights to control their own work.

“Newsquest’s proposed terms are a copyright grab which, if agreed to, would take away a journalist’s most important rights without any increase in pay whatsoever.

“While the copyright would remain the journalist’s under the terms of the agreement, the value of this copyright would be virtulally worthless to the author having granted Newsquest an irrevocable licence.

“Many of our members are refusing to sign Newsquest’s agreement for these reasons.”