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
"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."