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Emap magazines issue "rights grab" contracts to freelance photographers

3 August 2006 - EPUK

Photographers working for a large number of magazines published by media giant Emap have expressed concern to EPUK after being sent revised “rights-grabbing” contributor contracts.

The contracts, which also apply to writers and designers, substantially change the terms and conditions under which photographers are commissioned in favour of Emap. The contracts cover 37 magazines produced by Emap Active and Emap Automotive.

The move is consistent with other media groups who have sought to maximise profits by reusing or syndicating existing work owned by freelances. In order to do this, they have sought to either own copyright or increase the extent of the license they require, but without a proportional increase in the fee paid – a so-called “rights grab”. In doing so the publisher can benefit financially from the reuse or resale of the work while paying the freelance little or no extra money. Freelances who depend upon these publishers often feel compelled to sign such contracts because they may otherwise lose a significant proportion of their income.

The layout of the Emap contracts – which contain the term “payment only on receipt of this agreement signed by the photographer/writer/designer” – suggests that these contracts may in the future be supplied after the commission has been shot and before any payment, a common practice among certain publishers, but legally-unenforceable since it seeks to alter the terms and conditions after a contract has been formed.

Different contributors, different contracts

The two contracts seen by EPUK are titled “Commission Agreement (full transfer)” and “Commission Agreement (limited transfer)”. However, the contracts differ in only minor details.

The new changes include:

  • For the “limited transfer” contract, the photographer has to grant Emap an exclusive, irrevocable and perpetual license to reuse the commissioned work – an effective grant of copyright in all but name.
  • For the “Full Transfer” contract, the photographer has to grant Emap “the entire copyright throughout the world”.
  • no extra payments to the photographer for reuse in the commissioning title
  • For the Limited Transfer contracts: 10% of the original commission fee to the photographer for reproductions in Emap publications based in Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
  • For the Limited Transfer contracts: offering 5% of the original commission fee in any Emap international edition not in the above countries.
  • For the Full Transfer contracts: no repayment for any Emap reuse.
  • offering 50% of profits from syndicationwhen sold to third parties
  • a confidentiality clause, meaning that if the contract were to be signed, its details and any other information concerning Emap could not be discussed with anyone else
  • Freelances are not to receive any payment if the article or feature is cancelled before the work is supplied to Emap.
Download the Emap contracts here in PDF format:

> Emap full transfer contract
> Emap limited transfer contract

The Emap sections believed to be affected by the new contracts are Emap Automotive and Emap Active. Emap Automotive publishes Automotive Management, Bike, What Bike?, Car, Classic Bike, Classic Cars, Fleet News, Land Rover Owner International, Max Power, Motor Cycle News, Parker’s, Performance Bikes, Practical Classics, RiDE and Sewells

Magazines published by Emap Active include Bird Watching, Country Walking, Digital Photo, Garden Answers, Garden News, Model Rail, Pet Product Marketing, Practical Fishkeeping, Practical Photography, Rail, Steam Railway, Trail, Your Horse, Angling Times, Golf World, Improve Your Coarse Fishing, Match, Sea Angler, Today’s Golfer, Trout Fisherman, Trout & Salmon and 2-FORE!-1

Emap only “seeking clarity” on multi-media licensing

Both Emap Active and Emap Automotive are published from Emap’s offices in Peterborough. While the other Emap magazine subsiduaries, all of which are London-based, have not sent out contracts, a spokesperson refused to deny that there was a plan to do so in the future, and told EPUK that the publishing giant has a strategy in place to ‘get clarity’ on the copyright material that could be published in other multi-media formats.

In the contracts seen by EPUK, the Full Transfer contract asks the photographer to “irrevocably and unconditionally assign to us…the entire copyright in the Commissioned Works throughout the world (including any amendments and extensions)” as well as to “waive any and all moral rights in the Commissioned works”

The “limited transfer” agreement asks for an “exclusive, irrevocable, perpetual and unconditional worldwide license..in any and all media whether now known or invented in the future”

Gwen Thomas, Executive Director for Business and Legal Affairs at the Association of Photographers told EPUK “This is a worldwide exclusive contract in favour of Emap for the full term of copyright. The percentages offered are low for re-use in international editions , although they are offering a 50/50 split on syndicated sales to third parties. I would also prefer this contract to be non-exclusive.”

Contracts “protect the freelance” claim disputed

A spokesperson for Emap denied that the contract terms were almost entirely to the benefit of Emap and to the detriment of the photographer. “We have a number of contracts and they are in place to protect both Emap and the freelancers from misuse, these range from three types of commissioning contracts to two licensing contracts that cover work that the contributors own.”

However, Gwen Thomas of the AOP rejected that view. “I fail to see where these contracts ‘protect the photographer’ – they remove complete control of the photographers copyright as afforded them by legislation. They even remove their right to a fee when commissioned work is cancelled – I presume their staff still get paid if an issue of the magazine is cancelled!”

Pete Jenkins, vice-chair of the National Union of Journalists photographers sub-committee, told EPUK he was appalled by the contracts. “If any publisher requires more rights for its various ventures, it should discuss this with its suppliers and pay an appropriate rate. I urge all NUJ member photographers who get these contracts to contact John Toner at the NUJ Freelance Office on 0207 843 3713 or JohnT@nuj.org.uk as soon as possible. As individuals often feel isolated and out on a limb in these matters, they can be assured that the Freelance office will do everything it can to support its members.”

Emap also pointed out that all contracts are sent out with a covering letter, signed by the editor explaining why they are doing this and to contact them if they have any queries.

One such letter seen by EPUK from an Emap magazine editor describes the Commission Agreement as a “simple contract” that Emap “would like you to sign”. He goes on to add “If there are any parts that you are not willing to accept, please get back to me. We value our freelance contributors’ work highly and our goal is to bring 100% of our contributors with us through this change”

Echoes from the past

The contracts echo the approach of magazine giant IPC, who in 2002 approached its contributors with similar rights grabbing contracts. As exclusively revealed by EPUK at the time, there were five contracts ranging from a full-out rights grab to a respectable “one use only” agreement.

Emap last year made a pre-tax profit of £223million from a turnover of £1.1 billion. It publishes over 140 magazines in the UK and worldwide, and its portfolio includes 40 UK radio stations.

  • EPUK is keen to hear from any Emap contributors who have received contracts from EMAP. You can contact EPUK using the Website Editor’s email address below, and all information will be handled in complete confidence

Want to contact the EPUK Website editor? editor@epuk.org


how whinging is this website ? paranoia and oversensationalism are two words that spring to mind. Not everyone’s out to get the poor old ‘artist’ – your ‘news’ stories sound like crusades.

Comment 1: chloe, 4 October 2006, 12:03 am

‘Chloe’ – like the good man says here

“If this is ‘whingeing’, perhaps consider sending a few hundred quid of your money to the poor victimised corporates who keep pulling these stunts. Somehow I doubt you will put your money where your mouth is…”

Comment 2: Louise Campbell, 24 October 2006, 10:00 am

your_ip_is_blacklisted_by sbl.spamhaus.org

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