Danish journalists keep their rights

AUTHORS in Denmark have fought off - for now - an attempt by publishers to change the law to hand over rights in journalits' work.

Anne Louise Schelin of the Danish Journalists' union reports: "On 5 October the the Danish Cultural Ministry sent a proposal to change the Danish Copyright Act for consultation to a long list of interested parties. The proposal has been drafted with the backing of the government with a very broad backing from all the political parties.

"In the proposal it is made clear that the government and a huge majority in parliament will not propose a work-for-hire like rule to be adopted in the Danish Copyright Act. There are other good things in the proposal as well."

In the USA, the "Work-for-hire" rule specifies that if a writer, photographer or other author is hired by the day, all rights in their work are by default handed over to their client.

In the US, as in the UK and Ireland, employed journalists lose all rights in their work. In Denmark, as in almost all the non-English-speaking world, they keep rights, including the important rights to say where work can be re-used and to get paid for that re-use.

NUJ General Secretary Jeremy Dear comments: "At a time when authors' rights are under attack all over the world, we applaud the Danish unions and copyright campigners for their success in ensuring the Danish Government and Parliament will not adopt a work-for-hire system. This is hugely encouraging for freelances everywhere, and we hope the Government of the UK will take notice."

Arne König, Chair of the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) said: "We salute the Danish Government’s decision not to introduce a 'work-for-hire rule'. It preserves the journalists’ essential rights to determine where their works are re-used and to receive a fair remuneration for these uses."

The review process of the Danish Copyright Act started in 2006 with the publication of a report from a committee under the Ministry of Culture. In consultation publishers and producers claimed that the work-for-hire rule should be introduced in the Danish legislation to "support the growth of the media sector".

During the consultation period, the Danish Joint Council of Authors' and Performers' Rights presented the political parties and the Prime Minister with evidence that there was no need for a work-for-hire rule, and of the negative impact that such a rule would undoubtedly have on quality, creativity and social dialogue. The Danish Union of Journalists has played a very active rôle in this coalition of authors and performers.

"Danish media are doing extremely well. Via active dialogue with employers, authors have contributed to ensuring material of good quality and a high ethical standard without blocking commercial competitiveness," added König. "The employers' claim, throughout Europe, that a work-for-hire rule is essential to the growth of the sector is a fallacious one. The signal sent by the Danish Government in this respect is clear"

After the ‘freelance strike’, an agreement

Meanwhile: on 17 September Danish freelances voted in favour of a collective agreement with the Aller publishing group - the first collective agreement for freelances in Denmark.

More than two-thirds of the Danish freelances who deliver content to Aller Press magazines and are members of Dansk Journalistforbund accepted the agreement; 138 freelances voted yes, while 61 were against the negotiation result. The main concerns of those voting no people was that rights to use their work have been sold too cheaply, and that protection of the material is not strong enough.

Some were concerned over the rôle of individual negotiation in the agreement. Dansk Journalistforbund has offered all freelances a course in negotiating. The "blockade" or "freelance strike" that was ruled legal by the Danish Labour Court in is therefore called off.

Last modified: 23 Oct 2007 - © 2007 contributors
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