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Swiss photographers’ petition demands payment

PHOTOGRAPHERS in Switzerland are resisting publishers' attempts to impose contracts that allow unlimited use of pictures for one fee.

Under Swiss law photographers cannot "assign" rights in their pictures - but publishers are trying to get the same sort of effect as UK-style assignment. An alliance of photographers' organisations has launched an online petition demanding that:

  1. Usage rights belong to authors - publishers must stop demanding buyouts for zero francs!
  2. The principle is: pay for each use!
  3. Anyone who wants journalism of the highest quality must pay fees that make it possible for freelances to earn a living.

The union Impressum, a member of the alliance and of the International Federation of Journalists, explains:

The reason for doing this lies in the actions of various publishers who, via new contracts, want to make freelances concede extensive usage rights without extra payment, for example the right to multiple usage including uses outside the publication for which the picture was commissioned and created. The editors would also like to create the possibility of exchanging pictures and articles freely among themselves and publishing them in different media.

These new clauses on authors' rights often suggest that, at the same time, the freelances formally retain the right to re-sell their writings or images elsewhere. But, if the media enterprises who are interested in a piece of work can obtain these usage rights for nothing, practically all the freelances' potential secondary clients will be lost.

Impressum supports this action because, for many freelances, the authors' rights contracts which have been put to them by various editors will make it impossible for them to practice their profession and provide what they need to continue existing as freelances.

Germans have a right to payment

Meanwhile in Germany, on 31 July the district court in the city of Rostock declared such all-uses contracts, which the Nordkurier group had tried to impose, illegal there. The district court in Hamburg has also issued an injunction against Bauer Achat KG for the same reason, and the Deutsche Journalisten-Verband is pursuing court cases elsewhere.

And on 29 September the the WAZ media group agreed with the DJV that it would abandon an unfair contract clause on authors' rights. The clause would have forced freelance photojournalists and journalists in the travel newsroom to accept the re-use of their work within the company or with partner media houses without any additional remuneration. The company accepted, on the court steps as the Freelance understands it, that the clause was against the German law on authors' rights.

Last modified: 01 Oct 2009 - © 2009 contributors
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