Photographers in Guardian Rights Dilemma
Re: Change to terms and conditions for commissioned photography
You will no doubt be aware that we, like every other media outlet in the UK, are experiencing very difficult trading conditions brought about by declining circulations and falling advertising revenues.
As a result we have been compelled to review all of our costs across the company, including the terms and conditions under which we trade with news and picture agencies and freelances.
We are writing to inform you that GNM will cease paying reuse fees in respect of photography it commissions from 01 September 2009. What this means is that from this date GNM’s standard terms for commissioned photography shall include a non-exclusive, perpetual licence to re-use commissioned photography in its products and services without further payment.
For your reassurance, copyright ownership of the pictures you supply to GNM remains with you; stock photography and photography commissioned prior to 01 September 2009 are unaffected and will continue to attract our standard space rates; and our standard syndication terms remain unchanged.
Our Freelance Charter (http://www.guardian.co.uk/
“You may have received an email from Chris Elliot, stating that GNM, which owns the Guardian and the Observer are ending repro payments to all commissioned works as of September 1st. This means that from that date onward, they can use your images without compensation as many times as they want. For their purposes they effectively own it. A License to reuse your photographs for perpetuity without compensation is not a license but a backdoor copyright grab. They are not asking for that right, they are taking it.
As you may or may not know the photographers on contract at the Observer and the Guardian are fighting this along with the National Union of Journalists and the NUJ Chapel at GNM. I think the first thing we can do actually reply to Chris Elliott and say you not only object to these new terms and conditions but you will not work for GNM under those terms.
The only way they are going to get this by is if enough photographers work for them. If we let them know the strength of our objections, it may persuade them to back down.
The Guardian and the Observer have a genuine financial crisis. The business is in peril from the recession, online migration and the huge drop in advertising. The current news stories about closing The Observer reflect this. I love working for GNM, in so many respects its a great company and produces a great product that I genuinely believe in.
But the fact remains, we are freelancers and we own our images. They want to put us on the same terms and conditions as a staff photographer without the benefits of said position.
The License they wish to impose on us makes a mockery of my copyright and renders it meaningless. Free re-use for perpetuity is simply not acceptable. This singles out photographers for a drastic reduction in income across the board, and sets an unjustifiable precedent to no longer remunerate authors for their work, according to the spirit of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
So REPLY to Chris Elliott and make the force of your argument felt. Everyone who has gotten an email from Elliott should reply. Everyone who is reading this should write not only to Chris Elliott but to the architect of this plan, Robert Hahn, the picture editors Roger Tooth and Greg Whitmore and the editor of both papers, Alan Rusbridger and let them know this is unacceptable. How many photographers work for them? If we all object how can they possibly go ahead?
If we all protest these new terms and conditions, it will have an effect. Do it now, do it today. If GNM gets away with this, in no time this will be the industry norm and our ability to manage our library will disappear. If this is allowed to happen, photojournalism will be dealt a life threatening blow.
The Guardian and Observer photographers are willing to take industrial action with the full backing of the NUJ, not only to protect our rights but your rights as well.
We are currently formulating a draft letter and a petition along the lines against Jahreszeiten Publishing House in Germany. But don’t wait for this, write a email letter now.