Dear M.P...

This is an outline of the kind of letter that the Branch asks you to send your MP. You can download the text to edit here - and you can look up your MP's name at www.parliament.uk/commons/lib/alcmad.htm. Please copy your letter and any interesting responses to us, c/o the Freelance Office. Obviously, the more you make it a personal message the better. It is important to ask for a response!

Your address, date

Your Member of Parliament
House of Commons
London SW1A 1AA

Dear Your MP,

The media and creative industries are a very significant part of the UK economy - they contribute over 70 billion pounds a year of turnover according to the Department of Culture - not counting computer software. That economic activity depends, in the end, on the hard work of individual creators. I am one - I am a journalist, and I work as a freelance.

I hope you will agree that it is essential to recognise and protect the contributions of individual creators - not only in order to safeguard the foundations of this important sector of the economy, but as a matter of public policy and even as a cornerstone of democracy.

Let me explain this bold claim. Any conceivable form of democracy depends on an informed public. That can only be achieved by honest reporting in words and pictures. And what is the public's guarantee that what they see of my work is indeed my best effort at honest reporting? I suggest it is a personal guarantee, a direct link between creator and citizen or consumer.

Indeed my colleagues in continental Europe have the right to be credited and to object to distortion of their work. These rights of individual creators also mean that they individually take responsibility. They avoid the dissemination of anonymous information as news, with no individual vouching for it.

Yet these rights are weak in the UK. They do not exist at all for news reporting, nor for any employed creator - but publishers and broadcasters persist in demanding that freelances sign them away. Many also demand that we sign away all economic rights - so that they can pay once for our work and sell it over and over again. I am happy, in principle, for my work to be distributed through the new media. But if a publisher is charging a single reader US$2 to see it, should I not have a fair share - for example the 50% I would traditionally receive when one newspaper charged another $200 to license it?

Replace following with your own rights-grab story

With depressing frequency, I get letters demanding that I sign away, for example, "all rights, throughout the universe, in media yet to be invented" - with the more or less explicit threat that if I do not do so I will not be commissioned again.

When such an "offer" is made by a global corporation to me as a sole trader, it hardly counts as a freely negotiated contract. Indeed, you may feel that it smacks of "abuse of a dominant position".

Clearly, the issues raised by copyright and authors' rights are not simply a conflict of interest between "rightsholders" and consumers. Creators; publishers and broadcasters; and citizens: each have separate interests - and creators are citizens and heavy consumers of copyright work. I urge you to consider the needs of individual creators to protect both our reputations and our income when future legislation arises.

In the longer term, I hope you'll support the Creators' Rights Alliance - which brings together creative workers' organisations - in its campaign to give all UK creators - freelance and employed - protection at least as strong as that enjoyed by our colleagues in continental Europe.

Immediately, Parliament will be presented with a measure implementing the EU Directive on Copyright and Related Rights. The Directive gives the government the opportunity, for example, to ensure that individual creators receive a fair share of new revenues from digital copying of our work - an extension, by analogy, of the Public Lending Right for book authors.

Can you let me know what position you will have on this measure and, in general terms, on future measures?

Yours, signed

If you require more information on the issues raised here, please see the websites

Last modified: 25 October 2001 - © 2001 contributors
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