(NOTE: The information on this page deals with newspapers, magazines, and websites. For information about book publishing contracts, please click HERE, and note that Barbara is now offering a contract review service.)
An excellent article describing the current situation is in the public section of the October, 2010 issue of the ASJA newsletter. Go to: http://www.asja.org/newspub/newspub.php.
Most publications now insist that freelancers sign
a contract before payment
can be issued. Please see my article, Disaster-proof Your Assignments,
to make sure you keep from signing away your rights. See sample wording at the bottom of this page.
A few things to watch out for:
Do "electronic rights" mean posting to a web site, or also to
a databse, CD or DVD? What about a PDF compilation of
articles, or web tutorials or videos? There should be additional
payment for these uses?
Will you receive additional payment if an
advertiser or someone mentioned
in your article wants to purchase reprints for commerical or advertising uses?
Most contracts state that the author "retains
copyright." But don't be
lulled by that. Make sure you also have the right to resell your work to an
anthology, use it in a course or tutorial, or any other way you choose.
A good contract includes a clause giving the author
the opportunity to
update the material if it will be used again, and if there are substantial
changes or additions, to be paid for that.
If payment is by the word, what happens if the
length changes after the
piece is written and accepted? Will you have a right to see any cuts before
the piece is published?
What does the magazine mean by "payment on
acceptance"? Make sure
the contract specifies a definite number of weeks.
You should have the right to pull the piece or have
your byline removed if
the article is changed in the editing process to the extent that it no longer
reflects your views or your style.
Some publishers try to prevent writers from writing
for the competition.
Unless they're paying you a retainer, they don't have the right to restrict
who you work for. Remind them, gently but firmly, that you are a freelancer
to whom they don't have to provide office space, supplies, or pay benefits,
not a staff member.
Some custom publishing firms want to own the
content of their projects.
Consider carefully before you sign such a contract, and make sure the
payment is much higher (than for other magazines) because you won't
be able to recycle your work. These contracts are usually "work for hire"
with writers giving up all rights, including bylines, control over editing,
and "other uses" which might include use in promotional materials,
on the web, etc. Usually photographers and artists don't give up these
rights, so it's worthwhile trying to negotiate only one-time use, as they
Be careful about signing a contract that gives a publication "derivative rights" even if non-exclusively. They could make a deal to sell screen rights to your story or article, leaving you out in the cold.
When you send anything "on spec" to a newspaper or magazine, make sure you include the phrase in your covering letter "for payment at your usual rates," or "for payment to be negotiated." Some writers have been burned by newspapers or start-up magazines who published their work without offering any compensation.
Many organizations have been attempting to effect
changes in freelance contracts.
Check out the website for the new Canadian Freelance Union.
CFU members have reported contracts with wording that is clearly abusive.
Some examples (from CFU members and others):
1. CanWest newspapers require "all rights, in perpetuity, throughout the universe." Their latest contract takes away payment for the use of articles in papers across the country, asks freelancers to "assign" moral rights (which isn't possible under Canada copyright law) and requires freelancers to "indemnify" them from any damage that the article might cause. Click here to see some letters sent to CanWest protesting this contract.
2. Quebecor Media, through their subsidiary Sun Media, has just issued a new contract which not only has similar rights-grabbing language, but goes further than even Canwest in its waiver of moral rights AND a 60-day exclusivity clause for the submitted article "and all similar content."
3. Many newspapers won't allow freelancers to write for any other print medium in the region, which greatly restricts not only the freelancer's ability to make a living, but also means they can't use research for one piece in a completely different article, with a different slant, for a publication with a different target audience.
4. The magazine Mental Floss claims: "All submissions (and all ideas, wording, materials and other content, in whole or in part) become the property of Mental Floss, and may be used, modified, distributed, and provided to others by Mental Floss without restriction or payment of any kind. By making a submission, you represent and warrant that you have the right to disclose and to authorize any and all uses and disclosures by Mental Floss of the submission, and you agree that you waive and that you will not claim any rights in or restrictions on the submission (or any use or distribution by Mental Floss) at any time."
5. Another freelancer was sent the following contract: "Whether the article is provided for free or for monetary or other benefit, this agreement grants XXX Publishing group unlimited reprint rights of the article, column, or other such editorial piece, including photos, supplied by the Freelance Contributor for use in future issues of (4 different magazines under the publisher's banner), both online and printed, and any other venture of XXX Publishing Group. Use has no time limit."
6. Canoe <http://www.canoe.ca>.ca has entered into an agreement with Rogers <http://www.Rogers.com> Publishing Limited which will allow for content sharing from eleven of Roger's brands to the canoe.ca <http://www.canoe.ca> site. Included in the agreement are chatelaine.com, chatelaine.qc.ca, macleans.ca, Todaysparent.com, Canadian Parents Online (canadianparents.com), FLARE.com, louloumagazine.com, glow.ca, Canadian Business Online (canadianbusiness.com) Lactualite.com and chocolatmagazine.ca. The site has been very active over the last year and reached 6,781,000 unique visitors in November 2006 according to data from comScore <http://www.comScore.com>.
7. The CBC is soliciting submissions for a new feature, saying on the submission form: "By clicking on the Submit Your Essay button below, you are transferring to CBC all rights, including copyright, in your essay and are waiving your moral rights in the essay. As owner of copyright, CBC, and third parties authorized by CBC, will have the exclusive right to make unlimited use of all or part of the essay in any and all media in perpetuity worldwide."
WORDING TO INCLUDE IN YOUR LETTER OF AGREEMENT:
Copyright licence: one-time Canadian print rights in English only. If the article is not published within 12 months of submission, the licence is terminated. All other rights reserved, including syndication and electronic rights.
One could replace "Canadian" with "U.S." or "North American," and change the country to any other country when you sell rights abroad.
Include this wording on your invoices as well.
FOR CORPORATE WORK:
Ask for 50% payment due on commencement of project, 50% due on completion.
Include in your contract: Payment due on receipt. Net 30 days. 2% per month charged on all overdue accounts.
If you worry that the contract might drag on, make sure you have a provision in the contract that allows you to bill on a regular basis. One freelancer insists that payment of the last 50% be made within two months of the proposed completion date, even if the project has stalled.
WATCH OUT FOR CONTESTS & ANTHOLOGIES
Read guidelines carefully to make sure the publisher doesn't take your material without compensation. A recent contest contained the wording: "All entries, photographs and images become the property of [name of publisher]." This means that you will lose all control over your original work, which may appear in any number of publications, websites, or promotional materials without your receiving any payment. You may even not receive a byline or any other credit.
FOR MORE ADVICE, SEE:
MENTORING FOR WRITERS
AND FOR BUSINESS ADVICE:
MENTORING FOR ENTREPRENEURS
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