May 1996

EMAP re-draws its plans

FREELANCES continue to fend off the all-rights-by-the- year copyright scam at EMAP Business Communications and its diverse offshoots.

Apart from simply refusing to sign, either individually or in groups, some have already found that a polite enquiry to the commissioning editor along the lines of "Look, we've worked together for a long time, what do you really need?" can swiftly lead on to offers of fees for specific usages of the material. For instance, one magazine just wanted to do a CD-ROM version. It offered a flat fee of £50 per item re-used in that medium.

Whether this is a fair rate is hard to say at this early stage in the digital market, but at least it was freely negotiated.

One comparison would be the recent deal between the Dutch journalists' union NVJ and publishers VNU (who have a British division too). VNU agreed a 40 per cent supplement on the basic fee for a single CD-ROM usage.

Meanwhile, the copyright lull at other divisions of EMAP could be about to go stormy again. The company has struck a deal with the Compuserve online service. According to Compuserve, the titles involved will include Q, Empire, Car and Practical Photography.

It's not yet clear whether this is for some or all of the company's magazines, but it's intended that the publications in question should go online "over the next 2 months".

So the company will need to purchase the necessary licenses from freelances for permission to re-use their material. Or, if they're still in the macho mood of January 95, they may be wheeling out a variant on the "for the universe, for ever, for all media, for nothing" contract which most freelances refused to sign back then.

Whichever, when it comes, the advice is:

  • read carefully
  • don't sign anything in haste
  • check with the union for advice and backup
  • do new-style networking and old-style meeting with freelances working for the magazines you're involved with.

The current Journalist, enclosed, has more stories on how freelances have been successfully turning back the corporate copyright raiders.

Jon Nicolson

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