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The Scotsman copyright contract resisted

20 December 2000 - EPUK

Momentum is gathering among freelances in Edinburgh to oppose Scotsman Publications’ rights-grabbing contracts

The long anticipated Scotsman Publications Limited (TSPL) “Picture Supplier” contracts – the contracts which photographers had been told if they were to continue working after 1 December 2000 – were finally received on the morning of Tuesday 5 December.

Among with other errors, they contained a number of issues which had not been mentioned by TSPL before. These included:

  • a complete and irrevocable rights grab where copyright due to the photographer on all works ever produced in the past or future would be given over to TSPL
  • mandatory syndication by TSPL of freelances’ work through a department which does not yet exist.

Due to the angry response received from freelancers, the picture editors called a meeting with TSPL project manager Philip Thorp, and the contract was revoked five hours after it had arrived on most people’s doorsteps. To date, not a single freelance has signed a contract, and all are continuing to work under the old terms and conditions but at the new, higher pay rate.

(The advice from SNAP [Scottish Newspapers Association of Photographers] on the first contract has been – if you have been sent such a contract, write “I do not agree” at the end, and sign and date to make sure that you are not covered by its terms for any subsequent work)

Thorp then agreed to meet with a delegation from SNAP to discuss concerns with the contract and to raise issues. In the meantime, the deadline of 1 December was put back to 15 December as a date for signing the second contract.

The meeting – held on Wednesday 13 December – lasted three hours, and SNAP representatives raised 28 separate issues with the contract. These varied from minor legal arguments to major issues, such as those concerning copyright, mandatory payment for reproductions, day rates separate from expenses and syndication.

Whilst the meeting covered both fine print and general principles of the contract, no comment was made on the specific pay offer by the three papers.

As a result of the meeting, which was felt to be positive on both sides, a second contract is to be drawn up, a draft of which should be available in the next few weeks.

In the meantime – the deadline of 15 December for signing contracts has now been removed. If you are likely to be working for TSPL in the near future, make sure when you accept work that you make it clear to the picture editor that you are still working under the old terms.

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