by J.A. Kawellcopyright © 1999 J.A. Kawell
You may or may not have heard that the National Writers Union has won the latest round in its legal suit (Tasini vs. NYT) aimed at keeping print publishers from reusing freelancers work, without additional payment, on Websites and in databases. According to Mike Bradley, NWU chief grievance officer, the ruling technically applies only to 2nd Circuit (New York region), and may be appealed again -- but the ruling is still good news. The practical everyday results for freelancers are summarized below. There's also talk that, in the wake of the ruling, some freelancers freelancers whose work has already appeared in databases without permission/compensation maybe able to collect damages. If you are in this situation, contact an NWU grievance officer (via Arlene or Akilah at national office) for more information.
From the NWU Web site (there is also extensive info on the suit itself on the site):
How Freelancers Should Negotiate in the Wake of the RulingQ. How does the ruling affect my negotiations with an editor?
A. Publishers will continue to pressure writers to sign away electronic rights for no additional compensation. We must continue the fight against all-rights and work-for-hire contracts. We demonstrate our collective strength by individually refusing to give away these rights. The NWU recommends the following negotiating strategy:
- Continue trying to negotiate contracts that give publishers nothing more than First North American Print Rights, or that provide for additional compensation for other uses. Continue using the NWU's Standard Journalism Contract.
- If you can't retain the electronic rights and you can't get the editor to provide extra compensation explicitly tied to database use, argue for a higher print fee since the article is now worth more to the publisher.
- Be especially careful to license different types of electronic rights separately. Lexis-Nexis rights are separate and distinct from Dialog rights; the right to include the article on the publisher's own website is separate and distinct from the right to include it on third party web sites. License only non-exclusive rights and try to limit the license to one year.
- Please let the NWU know how your negotiations with editors change in the wake of the lawsuit ruling. Send copies of contracts and short summaries of your negotiating experiences to the National Office East by fax [212-254-0673] or by e-mail.
J.A. Kawell is a Bay Area officer of the National Writers' Union, and a longtime friend of the JJA -- which provides its members with an associate member status in the NWU, through which to purchase health insurance.