Guardian backs down a bit

THE CAMPAIGN against the Guardian's copyright extortion is growing. The Freelance understands that 200 members, including many prominent journalists, have signed a letter to editor Alan Rusbridger rejecting his rights grab. The NUJ has engaged a part-time organiser specifically for the Guardian campaign -- and the Managing Editor has backed down on withholding payments.

The Guardian is reported in Private Eye as claiming that 2000 freelances had signed away their rights. As Hislop's organ noted, this seems an infeasibly large number. Rusbridger claimed that the policy was necessary "to safeguard the Guardian's future". As Jacob Ecclestone responded, this "is really saying that freelance contributors must sacrifice their legal, economic and moral rights for the benefit of the highly paid people who run Guardian Newspapers Ltd. Since the Guardian already pays the lowest rates of any national newspaper, you are expecting freelances to make a double sacrifice. Why?"

That response crossed in the post with a letter dated 8 October from Managing Editor Brian Whitaker, responding to reports that the paper has refused to pay those who do not sign.

"We are talking here," Whitaker states, "about first-time contributors only.... Once we have a reply from a contributor a payment goes out. This should happen whether they sign the agreement or not. If they object to the terms we continue the discussion but payment should still go ahead. However, delays are difficult to avoid when contributors do not reply one way or another.

"To minimise the risk of misunderstandings," Whitaker goes on, "I have sent a note to all relevant staff emphasising that payment is not conditional on signing the copyright agreement." If you have problems getting money out of the Guardian, fax them this statement from Whitaker -- and send a copy to the Freelance Office -fax 020 7278 1812.

In other developments, the NUJ has also engaged a researcher to collect evidence of illegal re-use of freelances' work by the Guardian. If you have evidence that your work has been recycled without your permission, please fax it to the Freelance Office as above.

We plan a special meeting to debate the issues at the House of Commons -- everyone who has signed the letter to the Guardian will get details, so if you haven't, get in touch now.

Nov/Dec 1997

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