Beware the Witch of Work-for-Hire!
The National Writers Union's Journalism Division is
fighting for fair contracts at Time Inc., which owns some 100 magazines
including major titles such as Time, Sports
Illustrated, Skiing and Popular Mechanics.
More than a year ago, Time Inc. introduced a "work-for-hire"
contract which deems freelances to be employed for the day and thus
under US law takes away their copyright. Journalists refusing to sign this
rights-grabbing agreement, including long-standing contributing writers
and editors, have been barred from writing for Time Inc. magazines.
This past summer the National Writers Union ran a campaign at
AOL-sponsored film festivals -
"The Copyright Snatchers". It are
now gearing up for another action and needs your help.
On 15 November AOLTW released its second
Harry Potter film, Harry Potter and the Chamber of
Secrets in the US and UK, with great fanfare. What most
fans don't know is that Time Inc. is the Witch of Work-for-Hire,
exploiting freelance writers and artists by forcing them to
sign away all rights and ownership to their work.
Below is a sample letter "To the
Editor." The NWU needs as many members and allies as
possible to write op-eds on this issue and/or send
letters to the editors of local papers and/or other
publications nationally. No publication is too large
or small. Don't forget Time Inc. publications and publications
Feel free to change or add to the letter as you wish.
Personal testimonials can be highly effective. If you
would like more background, visit the "Journalists"
section at www.nwu.org. Also feel free to contact Dian Killian
firstname.lastname@example.org if you need additional help.
Please let Dian Killian know which publications you're writing
to, and me a copy of your letter. Thanks in advance for using the power
of the pen on this important issue!
Writers Union completed a study last year
which found that, in real dollars, the pay for freelance
writers had decreased more than fifty percent since
the 1960s. The way freelancers traditionally survive
against such odds is by syndicating and re-selling
their work. But forced to give up their copyright under
work-for-hire contracts, such multiple sales by creators
is impossible. All additional sales - and the royalties
attached - go into the already deep pockets of multi-billion
dollar corporations like Time Inc.
Copyright is so important, it's written into the US
Constitution. The founders of our country understood
there would not be a flowering of culture, arts, and
sciences unless creators and inventors could reasonably
profit from their work. Last year, in Tasini v. the
New York Times, the US Supreme Court ruled in creators'
favor when determining that electronic use of a writer's
work qualifies as a separate and additional use. But
as long as there are media monopolies the size of Time
Inc., which owns 100 major publications (and is firing
those who refuse to sign work-for-hire), writers have
little recourse from unfair contracts. Either way creators
lose: the rights to our work (and the royalties we
need) or the opportunity to work for Time Inc. publications.
When freelance writers and artists can't survive, we
all lose a valuable, independent voice in the media.
JK Rowling is a best selling author. But most writers
aren't. If you really appreciate what artists and writers
do, let AOL Time Warner know that how they're treating
independent artists and writers is unacceptable. No
one should be forced to sign away his or her copyright.
And no one should be fired for refusing to sign an
unfair and non-negotiable contract.