DO YOU FEEL as though you've been ripped off? The NUJ wants to know. You open a newspaper or magazine, or visit a website, and you see your work - exactly the same arrangement of written words or an image - copied without acknowledgment, any prior agreement, or (naturally) a fee.
It's not a good feeling.
Of course, in this wired world, it's easy for members' work to be copied and transmitted globally in seconds. At the NUJ's 2012 Delegate Meeting, members supported a motion calling for freelances to get their just reward for published work that has been copied illegally.
The NUJ has done outstanding work in clarifying the copyright situation, for example winning the creation of a Small Claims Court that can deal with UK copyright cases, now for amounts up to £10,000. It has backed members' justified claims for redress.
The motion seeks to to re-examine the situation regarding copyright abuses. In the autumn, therefore, the NUJ's Freelance Industrial Council (FIC) will organise a survey to elicit members' views on: a) the extent of the problem; b) where breaches have occurred and how they were identified; and c) how successful members have been in seeking redress.
In addition to the survey, FIC will look to see if new software solutions exist that could help to identify copyright breaches.
On that point, it must be stressed that writing an article that uses ideas from another piece is not in itself a breach of copyright. A breach only occurs under current UK copyright law when a members' work - or a "substantial part" of it - is copied word-for-word or when an image is used without a license or prior agreement. It's the copying of the exact arrangement of an author's words ("the expression", not the "idea", in copyright law terminology) that constitutes a breach. See londonfreelance.org/fl/quoting.html for more detail.
If you have comments or quotes on this subject, don't hesitate to contact John Chapman (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Matt Salusbury (email@example.com). And please answer the survey: we want to know the facts and depend on you to provide them.