Freelance journalists’ rights at stake

It may be across the pond, but wherever media outfits force freelance writers to overturn rights to their articles it worries independent creators worldwide.

Canadian Freelance Union – CFU – says it is deeply concerned over Quebecor Media’s bid to force freelance writers it hires to sign away virtually all rights to their work without compensation.

Union officials said the actions of the billion-dollar media outfit suggest its independent contributors won’t even be recognised for the value they’ve brought to the newspaper.

Ominously for freelance journalists worldwide, the move has come about because the media giant is simply interested in making savings to its bottom line, CFU said.

Michael OReilly, CFU president, explained: “Quebecor is one of Canada's largest media giants. It has revenue of over $6.3 billion worldwide, yet it wants to squeeze even more from some of Canada's lowest paid workers

“This is the most one-sided contract I have seen. It takes everything and leaves the writers with nothing but the legal liability should someone decide to sue. We are advising freelancers not to sign.”

Parent union the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers (CEP) Union, said the stance of Quebecor Media amounts to a direct “attack on freelancers.”

Its president Peter Murdoch reflected: “Media corporations are eroding the wages of freelancers and jeopardising the standards of the craft at the same time"

"CFU has the full weight of CEP and fellow media unions in calling on Quebecor to come to the negotiating table to discuss a fair deal."

According to the unions, Quebecor has issued a 'take it or leave it' contract to its freelance writers.

It demands that writers give the newspaper complete control over their works for no additional payment.

It also demands exclusive use of the articles, “and any substantially similar content,” for up to 60 days after publication.

Michael OReily pleaded: “We are more than happy to work with our publisher colleagues to license whatever rights they would like. All we ask is to be treated fairly.”


15th December 2006

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