The Times Mirror Company has agreed to pay its freelance writers for the reuse of their articles on SkiNet, the new World Wide Web site for Ski and Skiing magazines.

Under the agreement, whenever an article by a freelancer is posted on SkiNet, the magazines will pay an additional electronic rights licensing fee of 10 percent of the original print rights fee. This base fee will rise commensurate with the increase in the number of readers at the Web site. The SkiNet license has a one-year term.

The agreement was negotiated by David Goodman, the National Writers Union's journalism campaign co-chair and a contributing editor at Ski, and Seth Masia, Ski's senior editor. SkiNet, which began operations last month, is one of hundreds of magazines and newspapers already marketing their contents via the Web. Many other publications also exploit full-text databases, CD-ROMs, and other electronic media.

Goodman said the agreement is significant because it recognizes that writers must be compensated for all uses of their works, whether print or electronic. Until recently, freelancers licensed only the right to print an article in a magazine or newspaper one time; the writers have retained all other rights and resold their works in any form they chose.

"The electronic networks are an exciting market with great potential for writers and other creators," Goodman said. "As we develop standards in this budding industry, the NWU wants a system that's fair to all parties -- the public as well as creators and publishers. We hope our agreement with Times Mirror will let writers everywhere know that they are entitled to be paid for each use of their work. And we hope other publishers are encouraged by Times Mirror's reasonable model at SkiNet."

Masia added: "Ski magazine knows its contributors are vital to its success. We realize that SkiNet, or any other electronic product, is not the same as a print publication. As such, it needs different arrangements, both creatively and financially."

Ski and Skiing magazines have a combined audience of more than 4 million readers. The National Writers Union, an affiliate of United Auto Workers, represents 4,500 freelance writers in all genres.

Other areas of NWU advocacy of writers' electronic rights include:

  • support of a landmark federal copyright infringement lawsuit, led by NWU president Jonathan Tasini, that charges six major publishers and database operators with unauthorized electronic use of writers' works.
  • protests against newspaper and magazine publishers -- including The New York Times -- that have attempted to coerce freelance contributors into signing contracts that give away all rights in all media without additional payment.
  • the establishment of Publication Rights Clearinghouse, the first collective licensing agency for distributing royalties to writers of magazine and journal articles. The agency's first licensee is UnCover, a fax delivery service owned by Knight-Ridder, Inc.

For further information, contact Irvin Muchnick, assistant director, National Writers Union: irvmuch@netcom.com

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This statement by the National Writers' Union reproduced with permission.

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