Talks open over BBC Worldwide photo terms

BBC Worldwide recently met NUJ negotiators in London to discuss contracts for commissioned work for BBC print publications. Representing the NUJ were General Secretary John Foster, Freelance Organiser John Toner, Freelance NEC rep Kevin Cooper, and photographer Andrew Wiard.

The union called for negotiations after the BBC issued all-rights contracts to photographers 18 months ago. We are in close contact with the Association of Photographers.

At the negotiations the BBC admitted that a number of photographers have negotiated their own terms on copyright and syndication.

John Foster opened by suggesting we aim for agreement by Christmas. "Creators have a right to benefit from the full value of their work," he said, "and if it has continuing value then creators have a right to continuing benefit. We have always expected the BBC to behave reasonably. We want to explore why you think you need all rights from photographers. We feel a licensing arrangement is to your benefit and to the benefit of our members". The BBC's James Lancaster said "Where projects are initiated by the photographers themselves we recognise the copyright is theirs... Where BBCW commissions photographers, we see it differently and we think it is appropriate to acquire the rights."

Kevin Cooper, a photographer as well as an NEC member explained to the BBC "Most photographers are freelance because as staff they would lose all their rights. They see copyright as, firstly, their pension and, secondly, something they can hand on to their next of kin. Photographers also have syndication deals with one agency or another".

Nick from BBC Worldwide said "if we were involved commercially I would say your pension should be included in your fees. It would be outrageous if material is junked, and I say that as a former NUJ Father of Chapel. I would hope our fee is extremely attractive".

London photographer Andrew Wiard asked "Is your policy based on fairness or on market pressure? I cannot imagine any more draconian agreement than yours, which tears up the 1988 Copyright Act. This Act created a major change for photographers. The basic presumption of the law is that the photographer is the first owner of the work."

The BBC replied "Other companies have more draconian contracts than ours. I am not going to be the one who concedes on this. When the picture occurs because of The Brand then we require all rights. I am not having a Radio Times cover appearing anywhere else."

It is important for the freelance office to know whether writers have been "offered" similar contracts by BBC Worldwide. Who has signed the contracts, refused to sign, or negotiated their own contracts? What money is being offered and for what type of work?

If you do work for BBC Worldwide, contact the Freelance Organiser with the information. A joint NUJ/AoP contributors' meeting may need to be called in October.

Last modified: 24 August 2001 - © 2001 contributors
The Freelance editor is elected by London Freelance Branch and responsibility for content lies solely with the editor of the time
Send comments to the editor: editor@londonfreelance.org