Kerrang! Mojo, Q update
4 May 2010
AS OF this morning, May 4, freelance writers and photographers working for Kerrang!, Mojo and Q are concerned that this might finally be the day when the Bauer music titles start to apply a whitelist/blacklist set-up to enforce their long-threatened block on commissions for those who have refused to sign their new contracts which combine copyright-grabbing with onerous legal liability piled on to the individual.
The latest version of the contracts arrived in early April with an accompanying letter saying that the deadline on commissions would be enforced from April 16. For the past two weeks this hasn't actually happened.
In response, the freelance group - the majority of them not NUJ members - drafted its own compromise, much fairer contract affirming much of the licensing (for agreed fees) regularly negotiated and developed over the last 15 years - and offering a substantial extra concession of copyright in reviews (because of their collective value as sections and low separate resale value), while making many counter-proposals on the legal liability/indemnity clauses.
Many freelances sent it in, but late last week they all received letters from Bauer entirely rejecting it. In the same mailings most freelances received another letter from the company arguing their case for the contracts - including what the freelances have called the "Tier 1" contract proffered to a handful of major contributors which don't take all rights (although they do severely limit resale by the freelance) but do include the same legal hazards as the "Tier 2" contract the rest of the freelances have received.
These letters again asserted Bauer's insistence on all rights, ignoring the fact that their commercial need to use material in assorted digital formats could be met by licensing from the freelance rather than copyright transfer. On the liability issues, they essentially argued that, except in the case of extreme negligence by the freelance, the company wouldn't do what the contracts say and dump all costs of any legal action arising from the freelance's work "under any law" (though defamation gets a special mention).
The magazines still refuse to negotiate with the freelance group - as they have done since the contracts were first issued in February with a deadline of 1 March for compliance. They offer individual talks, but insist that the contract will not be changed.
Further responses are being discussed by the freelance committee and at the combined meeting on 5 May of freelances from the music titles and other Bauer magazines - the company has promised the extension of the all-rights and liability/indemnity contracts throughout the group in UK.