August 1995

NUJ joins international rights registry

THE NUJ HAS joined its freelance membership to the Authors Registry, a project launched by US writers' organisations to build a "cyberspace collecting agency". In trying to justify grabbing our rights to our work, publishers say "we can't afford to pay thousands of tiny amounts for rights in the new media". We can now respond "Oh yes you can, and we're doing the bl**dy work for you to boot."

At this early stage, the Registry operates as an indirect Yellow Pages for creators. Publishers who contact it by telephone are told which organisation can put them in touch with the individual. The NUJ will shortly send the Registry a simple list of freelance members' names.

When development has progressed a little further, the Registry will contact you directly to ask whether you want contact details to be made available directly to publishers. For those who choose to join, it will then operate as a kind of international Freelance Directory. There may be a small charge.

The following, and politically the most important, step will be to set up mechanisms to collect royalties for electronic publication from publishers and re-distribute them to creators. A publisher or on-line information provider should, for example, be able to send the Registry a single weekly or monthly payment, with a computer file specifying that A. Hack's photo of Princess Di arriving for a tryst with Naomi Campbell has been accessed by three million computer users at 2p a shot, and her snap of Bill Gates signing his soul over to Rupert Murdoch by a select audience of 37 at £10 a go.

The Authors Registry is a US non-profit corporation, whose current board members are members of the Authors' Guild, the US organisation with 6800 members, founded to represent book writers. The initiative came from the Guild and from the American Society of Journalists and Authors, an almost entirely member-run organisation of nearly 1000 magazine writers. With the addition of the NUJ's members, the Registry now represents 46,000 creators.

Business clearly takes the initiative seriously. The consultancy arm of A Very Famous Accountancy Firm is giving free advice in the hope of later involvement, as are computer consultancies.

Membership of the Registry, should you choose to take it up when the deal is worked out in more detail, is strictly non-exclusive and there is no obligation to take part in future stages. The NUJ continues to explore specifically UK or European mechanisms to collect payment for members and enforce authors' rights.

The 46,000 include members of the following (US) organisations: American Society of Journalists and Authors; Authors Guild; Canadian Science Writers Association; DC Science Writers' Association; Dramatists Guild; Editorial Freelancers Association; Garden Writers Association of America; Mystery Writers of America; National Association of Science Writers; Outdoor Writers Association of America; Romance Writers of America; Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators; Text and Academic Authors Association; Travel Journalists Guild; and Washington Independent Writers. Several literary agents have also affiliated.

If for any reason you wish to be excluded please write now to "The Registry" at Acorn House.

BY Mike Holderness

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