THE ONLINE publisher Lexis Nexis seems to be sending
freelances a new agreement. It contains not only a copyright assignment,
but also an indemnity clause. That is, it wants the freelance to pay
the costs of legal cases that may arise from the published piece.
The company's justification for this is a piece of US legislation
called the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. This puzzled us at first, because this
law was presented as one mandating openness and accountability in
corporations' boards and management.
But then we found an article in Reason magazine
reporting that investigators in the Valerie Plame leak case threatened
Time-Life board members with jail if their journalists didn't give up
This of course has serious implications for media freedom in the US.
The union is of course looking into it.
Immediately, the Freelance Office is talking to Lexis-Nexis and any
NUJ member who has received one of these contracts should
contact the office now.
Update 20 May 2006
- Norman Pearlstine, at the time Editor-in-Chief of TIME Inc, responds that "while I had considered Sarbanes, it really had little if any impact on my decision [to comply with a court order.] I don't believe it had much if any impact on special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald [in seeking the order]. He had all the authority he needed in the Supreme Court's Branzburg ruling that requires reporters to testify before a grand jury about their confidential sources."