[Freelance]

Winning with web work

THE NET is just another medium. That was the message from Dorian Silver, whose Planet Syndication sells articles around the world, and Gwen Thomas, of the Association of Photographers, to the May Branch meeting.

Time is of the essence. Do deals that ensure that your work goes on a web site only for a specified period - whether a day, a week, or a month - and you retain control. Allow some open-ended archiving arrangement and you lose it - unless you negotiate a deal that gives you a payment for each "hit" on the page.

Gwen reminded the meeting of legal cases in the US, Germany and France establishing that online use is an extra publication. She emphasised the need to get the paperwork correct: "Be specific in the first place." Negotiate the print rights, then move on to web rights as a separate matter. She mentioned the "fotoquote" program sold in the UK by Elfande, as well as the NUJ's Freelance Fees Guide, as sources for setting online rates.

Photographers should be aware of the need to identify their work electronically - for example through the registry set up by creator organisations at www.vci-registry.org.

Dorian wanted people to think about secondary and tertiary uses as well as the prime use an article was being commissioned for. "You've got to work out how they're going to use the stuff so you don't get unpleasant surprises," he said.

Gwen and Dorian both suggested that individual freelances may feel less able than agents to withstand pressure from clients. Dorian promoted the power of confidence: "Your stuff is not toilet roll. It's premium product."

So, he said, if a magazine like Woman's Own paid £800 for a feature, it shouldn't feel that that gives it the right to put it on the website without further payment. "I try to get the same price for use on the internet as in the magazine," he said, "or at least 50 per cent. If they say they can't, I say it's just tough."

If a feature is for a website in the first place, then it's got to be paid for in the same way as for print. "Commissioning editors in the new media are just as much at sea as you in setting fees," Dorian said. "What they want, however, is to get it cheap." He recommended thinking about traffic on the site, the eyeball count. If it's a big site, with a million people a month clicking through, you'll want to be charging accordingly. As examples, he mentioned fees of $300 for Question and Answer interviews on a big US site and £400 for features on a UK site.

Follow-up discussion revealed that although client organisations tend to press for all rights deals, freelances were finding it possible to resist. GQ magazine was said to start of by announcing that it would take all rights, but did back off when this was questioned. Dorian told of advising one freelance offered work by Marie Claire to insist on keeping copyright. "They were shouting at him down the phone, saying they had to have all rights. But he held out and they caved in. He's still getting work from them."

Aug/Sep 2000
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Last modified: 25 July 2000
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