FT under fire over freelancers' rights<br>

The Financial Times has been accused of grabbing the rights of its freelance journalists for including their work in its pay-to-view internet archive, allegedly without their permission.

Late last year, the FT became the third major daily UK newspaper to make its complete archive available online, offering its readers subscription or purchase accounts.

Yet a number of the paper’s freelance contributors, whose work is featured in the e-archive, claim that nobody at the FT has asked permission to use their articles in this way.

“Some publishers can ‘forget’ that freelancers own the rights in their work,” said John Toner, freelance organiser at the National Union of Journalists, which is lobbying for the freelancers.

In a letter sent to the FT last month, he asked the paper how it would obtain permission to use freelance work in its archive, and how it planned to pay the works’ authors.

But the publisher already has the “rights necessary” to archive the FT, the paper told Mr Toner, in a response he received after FreelanceUK requested it to comment.

“Nevertheless,” added FT spokesman Tom Glover, “we of course respect the intellectual property rights of third parties, not least our contributors”.

The FT has also offered to check the permissions it has been granted against any freelance writers, or photographers, who may have objections about its e-archive featuring their work.

One freelance contributor to the FT says the paper has not asked for his permission to archive his piece, though he was unsure if the FT was authorised to do so under his contract.

For all FT freelancers, exactly what their licence with the publisher states about how the paper will use their material for commercial purposes will be the sticking point, legal experts agree.

They pointed out that publishers who are granted a licence for using a freelancer’s work in one commercial way may have permission to use their work only in that way, and in no other, as Grisbrook Vs MGN reinforced. In short, it will all depend on the detail of what the contract for the work actually said.

“I would expect the FT to be better informed,” said Mr Toner, who believes some UK newspapers need reminding that when it comes to freelancers’ work “re-use is not free use.”

The FT responded: “We have asked Mr Toner if he would like to visit us, see the archive service demonstration and address his concerns. We are awaiting a response.”


19th February 2010

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