Emapping out the path

NEARLY 60 freelance contributors to the Health Service Journal, Nursing Times, Therapy Weekly and other health titles formerly owned by Macmillan Magazines are resisting a copyright grab being attempted by the magazines' new owners, Emap Healthcare. Since January, Emap commissioning editors have issued forms asking contributors to waive all rights "throughout the world" including any renewals and extensions in all media. The forms add insult to injury by asking contributors to declare that their work "will not be defamatory or in breach of copyright".

Members of the Health Freelance Network, which covers writers, subs, designers and cartoonists, are refusing to co-operate. The network's numbers have swelled to almost 60 since Emap took over the titles in November. Before the magazines' sale to Emap, the group negotiated with Macmillan in an attempt to resolve the issue of copyright, and members now want to open talks with Emap to thrash out an agreement.

The Health Freelance Network is also moving to nip in the bud attempts by Emap Healthcare to pay writers only after publication of their work, rather than after submission. Some of the company's specialist publications have lead-in times of 8-10 months - an unacceptable wait.

Within 48 hours of being informed of Emap Healthcare's intentions, more than 40 contributors had signed a joint letter informing the company that they expect to be paid within 30 days of submitting an invoice.

Members are also standing firm against attempts to introduce taxation at source. Since November, Emap Healthcare has issued elaborate forms asking freelances to prove why they should not be taxed at source. The contributors responded by quoting the Inland Revenue's latest guidelines, which contradict Emap's position.

The company's latest move has been to say that freelances should now go directly to Emap's own tax office in Salford to register their status as genuine self-employed journalists. As yet, Emap Healthcare has not felt able to attack the established pay system, which awards across-the-board freelance rate rises in line with staff pay increases. In January, the editors of the Emap Healthcare magazines announced new freelance rates of £142 per shift and £180 per thousand words.

BY Frank Chalmers

Contact HFN secretary Mike Cross on 0171-359 2565 or mike_cross@compuserve.com, or chair Frank Chalmers on 0171-354 5962.

Mar/Apr 1998

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