From the Finland station – rights retained
PRESSURE from European journalists' unions, including the NUJ, has paid off, with the Finnish government apparently dropping a proposal to weaken journalists' authors' rights. In Finland, as in almost all of Europe, all journalists, whether freeelance or employed, retain rights to their work and must be paid if it is re-used.
Publishers have been trying to break this rule and get something more like the law in the exceptions – the UK, Ireland and (to some extent) the Netherlands. Danish journalists' and other authors' organisations fought them off in 2007. They immediately started trying to persuade the Finnish government that it should "modernise" its law with a "presumption of transfer" of authors' right to be paid to their employers.
Now, we hear noises that the same proposal is coming up in Estonia, and in Russia and the Ukraine. Whack-a-moleski...
Finnish freelances have also made some progress against the country's dominant publisher, Sanoma. They held protests in the capital, Helsinki, last summer when the company demanded they sign a contract that among other things handed over this right to payment. Then 560 of them supported a lawsuit before the country's "market court", seeking a ruling that the contract was unfair.
The court declined to outlaw the contract as a whole, though it did suggest that individual freelances might have a case before it.
It did, however, rule that it was unfair of Sanoma to add a clause stipulating payment when work is "approved for publication" - work done should be paid for, immediately.
And the court held that Sanoma must genuinely negotiate with each individual journalist – it could not say "sign or don't work" in the British tradition. And a wider licence to use work should attract a wider fee.