Women's realm is
in the hot seat

A BARRAGE of tricky copyright questions greeted Cathy Watson, editor of IPC magazine Women's Realm, guest speaker at the May London Freelance Branch meeting.

However, she was able to offer a somewhat encouraging response when asked directly, "what is your attitude to freelances who want to retain their copyright?" -- "They can," she said. Asserting that copyright rarely caused conflict between her commissioning editors and freelances, she said, "Mostly we don't want copyright in an article or photographs."

She did add that generally the non-confrontational situation obtained for commercial reasons rather than idealism -- "the sort of human interest stories we publish are not likely to achieve worldwide sales." Occasionally -- only twice thus far during her months of editorship -- she did insist on freelances assigning copyright -- handing over their "freehold". She felt particularly justified in this where the idea behind the feature was initiated by the magazine. She did not claim that this was a factor in copyright law -- which says that you own the words you write and the pictures you take.

She said that when she bought all rights she paid a little extra, "though not much".

Although IPC has often stated corporately that it operates an "all-rights policy" on freelance work, Watson asserted that she had never been told to take this line.

Introduced as the first black woman to edit a magazine in the UK, she had begun with a few familiar, yet still widely unheeded, please to freelances approaching magazines with feature proposals. "You must know your magazine. That doesn't mean just glancing at one issue -- which many freelances seem to do. For instance, someone wrote in today saying `Have you ever thought of doing a round-up of recent developments in medical research affecting women?' Well, yes, we have a medical update in every issue.

"Another point is: contact the right commissioning editor to deal with your idea. Usually that isn't the editor. Check with the secretary or editorial assistant if you don't know who to talk to.

"When you're describing an idea be brief and be specific. Not `Would something about such-and-such be interesting?' A useful exercise is, before you call, to write a headline for your piece. If you can't do that you haven't got a focused article."

Jun 1998
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