Wednesday April 23, 2014 is World Copyright Day, a day designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to promote literacy and recognize authors. Copyright law varies across the world, but the idea of copyright is that laws around creative works should benefit society at large and also protect and incentivize creators, who enrich and enliven culture with their original stories, music, poems and photographs.
But the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) say journalists and other creators are being deprived of their rights and ability to earn a living from future use of their creations. And it is happening with the stroke of the pen, with the signing of unfair contracts riddled with clauses writers might not understand when they sign their rights away.
Across the world, IFJ and EFJ say writers, photojournalists, and other creators are being asked to sign “model contracts” with clauses that cut creators out of future decisions regarding their work – and out of future profits.
The IFJ and EFJ are asking for laws that would protect creators in negotiations, “ensuring that both moral and economical rights are respected.” Moral rights refers to a special framework of recognitions and protections for the intrinsic creative bond between creators and their works. Moral rights are more broadly recognized in Europe than in the US.
The advocacy groups called for stronger laws worldwide. “One cannot expect journalists to make a living when they are systematically asked to sign away their authors’ rights”, said IFJ President Jim Boumelha.
The National Writers Union Grievance and Contract Division (GCD) provides free contract advice to members. Earlier this year, the division advised writers to protect their rights to revenue from future digital publication of their own works and, when negotiating contracts, to“negotiate each type of publication right separately, and strike any reference to 'all media' in contract language.”
The EFJ and IFJ also critized contracts that contain buy-out clauses, assignment for future unknown uses and moral rights transfers.