Thursday, February 14, 2008

Canadian Media Guild slams Citizen's moral rights grab in freelance contracts

The Canadian Media Guild has called out the Ottawa Citizen for trying to impose terms on freelance writers as though they were employees without giving the freelancers any rights in return. In an open letter to Executive Editor Graham Greene -- essentially to CanWest, the paper's owner -- the guild's freelance branch president, Don Genova, and National President Lise Lareau are critical of sweeping "boilerplate" contract language.
The most troubling demand is that freelance authors waive their moral rights in the work they provide. Moral rights give the author creative ownership over their work and ensure they get credit when that work is used or re-used. It is the most fundamental right a writer has, and it is simply unacceptable to expect freelancers to surrender it outright. A media organization does not need to hold moral rights to be able to subject a piece to the normal editing process. In our view, the only reason a company would need to hold the moral rights would be to have the unfettered right to modify an item beyond its original meaning. Surely this is not the Citizen's aim.
A similar complaint was made last October by the Professional Writers Association of Canada (PWAC) against the Vancouver Sun, another CanWest paper.

[UPDATE: Here is the wording in the National Post's freelance contract (also CanWest).
In consideration of the Fee above-mentioned, Freelancer grants to the National Post the express, irrevocable and exclusive right to use the Content, for the Term in all Media throughout the Territory. The National Post shall be entitled to edit the content, and Freelancer hereby waives in favour of the National Post and its assigns, all “moral rights” in and to the Content as such rights may now or hereafter exist whether by legislative enactment or otherwise at law or in equity. Nothing herein shall obligate the National Post to use or publish the Content in any manner. The rights granted hereunder may be freely assigned or sub-licensed by the National Post to any third party.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

And still naive and desperate writers will continue to sign. Sigh.

2:53 pm  

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