The outcome is that freelances will keep their copyright and
moral rights, and fees will be structured to reflect the uses
made of their material. NUJ freelance organiser Bernie Corbett
said: "This points the way forward for the whole industry."
The inquiry was held to break a stalemate over rights that
started over two years ago when GNL -- which publishes the
Guardian and Observer -- sought to acquire all
rights in freelance contributions to enable it to recycle (or
"re-purpose" as they put it) material through new electronic
media such as on-line databases and the internet, as well as
The Guardian was repeatedly accused of
threatening freelances with the ultimatum: "Hand over your copyright or we
will never use you again."
The union's position was that contributors should normally
allow only a single use in the original newspaper, unless other
arrangements were specifically agreed and paid for.
The recommendations of the inquiry are very different -- much
better for freelance writers, and more workable for the
publisher as well.
The main recommendation is that there should be a standard
licence, expected to apply in over 90 per cent of cases, which
allows GNL the uses it wants while copyright remains with
contributors, who will be free to resell their material to other outlets
except where there is a conflict of interest.
Both sides agree that there will be a few cases where non-
standard arrangements are needed, and there will be a procedure for
The inquiry proposes that the fee for each contribution should
be in two parts: one covering the original newspaper use and
the other encompassing syndication and electronic use.
GNL and the NUJ will now begin negotiations to agree the level
of fees and the proportions in which they will be split. There
will be a monitoring system to allow fees to increase to reflect
any increase in revenues from electronic publishing and
syndication over future years.
The inquiry -- originally proposed by Guardian
editor Alan Rusbridger after nearly two years of fruitless
correspondence and negotiations -- was held under the auspices of the
Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS).
The three-person panel, chaired by Professor Jon Clark of the
University of Southampton with Maureen Duffy nominated by the
NUJ and Andreas Whittam Smith nominated by Guardian Newspapers
Ltd, heard evidence over two days.
The NUJ produced a 150-page submission, with detailed
arguments and letters, press clippings and other documents relating the
The union's evidence was presented by freelance organiser
Bernie Corbett and copyright co-ordinator Carol Lee. They brought in
a team of expert witnesses including Society of Authors general
secretary Mark Le Fanu, NUJ Freelance Industrial Council chair
Phil Sutcliffe, authors' rights expert Chris Barlas, cartoonist
Steve Bell and freelance columnist Joan Smith.
The panel, whose report was unanimous, stated: "We were
required to take into account both the rights and interests of
freelance contributors and the needs of GNL as a publisher. We believe
the recommendations represent a fair, equitable and practical
system for dealing with copyright."
Bernie Corbett, NUJ national organiser for freelances, said:
"This is a landmark case and has been closely watched by the rest
of the industry. I am delighted with the outcome and I am sure
it will be accepted by the vast majority of freelance
contributors. It gives an example to certain other newspaper, magazine and
broadcasting publishers who have been misusing their corporate
power to twist journalists' arms and force them to sign away all
rights in their work. The Guardian and the NUJ
have pointed the way forward."
Guardian editor Rusbridger said: "The
Guardian warmly welcomes the clarity that the panel has
brought to the increasingly complicated field of copyright. Few
newspapers or broadcasting organisations have quite caught up with the
implications of new technology for copyright, which is why we
originally proposed this procedure. I am sure it will work to the
benefit of both the Guardian and the many
freelancers whose efforts we depend on and I very much hope it will serve
as a model agreement for the rest of the industry."
The International Federation of Journalists greeted the deal
as "a watershed agreement not just for Britain, but for
journalists throughout Europe".
General secretary Aidan White said: "This breakthrough in
Britain, home of some of the worst robber barons in publishing,
takes the campaign for authors' rights an important step forward. We
shall now press home our demands for a fair deal for freelances
throughout Europe and beyond.
"With a new directive on intellectual property rights just
agreed by the European Parliament it is now clear that the battle
for authors' rights is not just being fought, it is being won."