We was hard, but we was fair

A LONDON Freelance Branch member, with the support of the freelance office, recently chalked up a small copyright victory against a national tabloid newspaper. The member -- named Brian, allegedly -- wrote a long feature for the monthly Total Sport, last autumn. The Mirror re-wrote the gist of it -- and copied a list of "the 50 most powerful people in British sport". Then it copied the list again, from a back-page panel to an inside sports page lead.

Brian invoiced the Mirror for £300. There was no reply. After a few weeks, a cheque for £70 came through. Brian was not over the moon. You could say he was upset. A couple more letters evoked no response. Three months on from the appearance of (basically) Brian's article in the Mirror, he contacted the NUJ freelance office and asked them to pursue the matter.

A brisk exchange of phone calls ensued. The Mirror made excuses. It had a lifting arrangement with Total Sport (but didn't check whether material was produced by freelances and, therefore whether the mag owned the stuff the Mirror was lifting).

Then an apprentice-Kray type rang Brian at home. He offered -- if that's not too weak a word -- a further £80. Should Brian refuse this, lawyers would be set on him.

Brian insisted that the matter was now in the union's hands and that young Reg must resolve the matter with the freelance office. Four days later, a civil and apologetic letter from the Mirror sports department to the NUJ promised that £230, the remainder of the original invoice, would be paid forthwith. It was.

Trade union. You know it makes sense. To set our secret weapon on the man-in-a-suit of your choice, phone or fax 0171-278 1812.

Sep/Oct 1997

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