The Journalism Division of the National Writers Union recommends that writers be paid a fee commensurate with the original print fee (i.e., First North American Print Rights) for use of a writer's work on the World Wide Web for a period of up to one year. The rationale is that publication on a web site is available to an international audience which may preclude additional resale revenues for the author. Therefore licensing to a World Wide Web site is similar to first print rights in different geographic regions, i.e., First U.K., First French. Other electronic rights such as CD-ROM and databases shall be negotiated separately at a suggested rate of 30 to 50 percent of the original print fee.
What does this mean?
For example, if a writer is paid $1,000 for the print version of her story, she should be paid the same amount for the use of her story for one year on a World Wide Web edition of the publication. She should be paid another $300 to $500 if her story is included as part of a database service such as Magazine Database Plus on Compuserve or at a magazine's electronic location on America Online.
What about different electronic media?
We recognize that different media -- such as CD-ROMs, electronic magazines, and archival databases -- may yield widely differing revenues for publishers. For example, an electronic edition of a magazine may generate money only from the ads that appear on it, while electronic databases may generate revenue by charging users for each article download. Each of these media represent a different use of the work, and must be paid for separately. This principle of separate payment for each use has long been recognized in print publishing, where rights for reprints, foreign editions, or anthologies are routinely paid for over and above the original print fee.
What about royalties?
One way to compensate writers for the revenue generated by different media is to pay royalties. A publisher might pay a writer according to the number of "hits" to an article, or pay a portion of a database download fee to the author of an article. The NWU is not opposed to these payment scenarios. But at this time, the largest database operators are unwilling to provide authors with either compensation for, or information about, on-line use of articles. And individual magazine publishers claim they are unprepared to provide a detailed accounting of, and regular payment for, on-line article use. Given these current realities, the NWU recommends that writers get paid a flat fee.
What are the advantages of these recommendations?
At this time, the flat percentage is the best way to ensure you will get paid for your electronic rights. This payment formula does not depend on the honesty of the publisher or the profitability of the electronic venture.
In the future, the NWU remains open to an equitable royalty payment system for electronic rights if publishers can provide accurate and timely accounting and payment to writers.
What are editors saying?
Many publishers insist that because their electronic ventures are currently money losers, they should not have to pay writers for electronic rights. But writers should not be bankrolling speculative electronic publishing ventures by being forced to provide their work for free. Publishers must recognize that the startup costs of electronic publishing includes paying writers for their work, in the same way that startup print magazines pay writers long before the publication becomes profitable.
How can I insert this in my contracts?
The NWU suggests you insert the following clause(s) in your contracts if you are licensing your electronic rights:
For a web site:
[Publisher] shall pay [Author] $____ (representing the same amount as the original primary right) for use of the Author's work in _____________ [one electronic outlet] for a period of one year. [Also include a license fee for usage in subsequent years or specify that those fees will be negotiated at a later date.]
For other electronic rights such as CD-ROM and databases:
[Publisher] shall pay [Author] $____ (representing 30 to 50 percent of the original print fee) for use of the Author's work in _____________ [one electronic outlet] for a period of one year. [Also include a license fee for usage in subsequent years or specify that those fees will be negotiated at a later date.]
If a publisher chooses to license electronic rights to a collection of articles (e.g., the past year's issues of a magazine) through the Publishers Rights Clearinghouse (PRC), writers should allow the PRC to negotiate their best electronic licensing fees. If a publisher insists on licensing e-rights on an article- by-article basis, writers should opt for the NWU recommended fee of 30 to 50 percent per use for the first year and an additional fee per use for each year thereafter.