A forthcoming legal case may determine how past and future
freelance photo submissions are owned in the near future. The prominent
newspaper, The Boston Globe, owned by the New York Times Corporation,
has asked all freelance contributors to sign a contract by July
1st that in effect says, "we [The Globe] own
permission to use the photos of yours that we have published in the
past, as well as the future, so we can have free reign to use them in
this upcoming era of digital delivery of images."
Stock photographers are especially concerned about the
Globe’s proposition. This would mean someone is changing
the rules in the middle of the game. When freelancers sold one-time
use rights of their photos in the past, they applied one of the basic
tenets of stock photography: spin-off. Which is... while an original
sale might not bring top dollar for a photo, the possibility of subsequent
sales of the image made it worthwhile to freelance for any major newspaper.
Now, the Globe says it wants to cut off that source of freelancers’
A RETROACTIVE GRAB
This case and planned suit by ASMP, The Graphic Artists'
Guild, and the National Writers' Union, is important to stock photographers.
Obviously the 800-lb. gorilla New York Times, owner of the Boston
Globe, would smile gleefully if the Globe contract is successful.
So would dozens of other major, me-too newspapers across the nation.
In a domino effect, newspapers would adopt similar contracts to tie
up freelancers' images retroactively. Goodbye freelance profits.
You can help by faxing or emailing (please don’t call;
he’s swamped) your support of the forthcoming suit to Boston attorney,
Ira Sills at email@example.com
(617) 742-2187. (Contacting him does not commit you to participating
in the lawsuit.) Mr. Sills is especially interested in hearing from
photographers who have already signed the contract because they felt
they had no choice or did not understand the ramifications of their
signing. He also wants to hear from photographers who feel they will
suffer significant economic hardship if they do not sign.
The Boston Globe dispute is being followed and supported
by ASMP, ASPP and many freelancer organizations. The Boston Globe Freelancers
Association, as far back as 1997, joined by the American Society of
Journalists and Authors, Authors Guild, Garden Writers Association of
America, International Association of Culinary Professionals (Food Writing
and Publishing Section), National Association of Science Writers, Society
of American Travel Writers (Freelance Council) and Washington Independent
Writers, wrote a letter to the Globe expressing their distress
at the planned contract.
Note: a section of that letter can be seen at http:/www.photosource.com/BGFA.html.
Members of the BGFA met with Louisa Williams, Administrative
Managing Editor at the Globe, in early May, 2000. Although the
meeting was amicable, no new contract was forthcoming. The July 1st
deadline -- whereby freelancers must sign the contract or they will
no longer do work for the newspaper -- still stands. –RE
BOSTON GLOBE FREELANCERS ASSOCIATION:
Tom Duffy, (617) 776-1797
Jeff Kantrowitz, (617) 491-2295
Elijah Wald, (617) 666-8158;
NATIONAL WRITERS UNION
Phone: (510) 839-0110
Phone: (206) 293-5781; Fax: (206) 293-8912