Posts made in December, 2004

Sign here, in blood

Posted by on Dec 4, 2021 in Other Writings | 0 comments

[From ffwd weekly ] VIEWPOINT by Brian Brennan Canadian media pirates craft a Faustian pact with freelancers When teenagers swap tunes over the Internet, the music industry cries foul and the daily newspapers characterize them as copyright pirates. Yet when Canadian freelance journalists have their intellectual property taken away from them, you don’t read about it in the daily press. Why? Because the pirates in this instance are the newspapers themselves. Time was that whenever freelancers wrote stories for newspapers or magazines they granted the publishers the right to print the material only once. This allowed the freelancers to retain the copyright, sell the material to other publications or – as I have done with some of my freelance articles – re-publish the material in book form, and make a decent living from their words. Now, some freelancers who write for CanWest Publications – the media giant that owns the Calgary Herald, Edmonton Journal, National Post and the major English-language dailies in most of Canada’s other large cities – find themselves in the invidious position of having to “irrevocably” surrender all rights to their work, including copyright, with no opportunity for reselling or republishing the material without CanWest’s “express written permission.” CanWest, on the other hand, asserts the right to “exclusively use and exploit” the material “in any manner and in any and all media, whether now known or hereafter devised, throughout the universe, in perpetuity.” Throughout the universe? In perpetuity? When I first heard about this otherworldly contract, I thought it must be someone’s idea of a bad joke. I phoned a senior editor at the Herald to ask if it was for real and was told that newsroom management hadn’t seen the document. Neither had a senior editor at the Vancouver Sun. That settles it, I thought. The document is clearly a hoax. However, then I received a call from Penney Kome, editor of the online publication Straight Goods, telling me she had talked to Geoffrey Elliott, vice-president of corporate affairs for CanWest. He had confirmed our worst fears; the contract was indeed a CanWest document. It wasn’t the only contract being used by CanWest – currently, it’s given only to freelance automotive writers – but it did reflect the company’s belief that it should be able to use the same freelance material across all its media platforms, which include websites, electronic databases, the CanWest Global television stations and its recently established book publishing division. As well as appropriating the author’s copyright, the new CanWest contract also requires freelancers to waive what are known as “moral rights” – defined in law as the right to protect their work from distortion or mutilation. This allows CanWest to change an article in whatever manner it pleases–turn a lemon into a hot rod – and still put the freelancer’s name on top of the article. Canadian writers’ organizations, representing more than 2,500 freelancers across the country, issued press releases condemning the contract when Kome posted a story about it on the Straight Goods website. The Writers’ Union of Canada, representing professional book writers, called the contract “a form of moral theft.” The Periodical Writers Association of Canada urged freelancers not to sign on CanWest’s dotted line. The Canadian Media Guild accused CanWest of “using its clout to gang up on the little guy.” Not one daily newspaper in Canada reported the story of the freelancers’ protest. You can understand why the CanWest chain chose not to run anything, but why wouldn’t The Globe and Mail, for example, take advantage of an opportunity to poke its rival in the eye? Perhaps...

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