Campaign for Contract Rights (AOL-Time Warner)

Rights Grab by Publishing Giant AOL Time Warner

In July 2001, long time contributors to SKI and SKIING were unilaterally sent a contract that, if signed, would henceforth strip them of their ownership of the stories that they wrote for the magazines. Previously, the writers had only granted the magazines one-time publication rights. Now the magazines were asking for all rights, for no extra pay.

This rip-off was the welcome card from Time Inc., which had purchased SKI and SKIING and the rest of Times Mirror Magazines in December 2000.

Who is this struggling publishing house that so desperately needs writers' charity? The Time Inc. subsidiary of AOL-Time Warner includes 140 magazines with 298 million readers. These publications account for nearly a quarter of advertising revenue for U.S. consumer magazines.

Writers Fight Back

Rather than agree to this highway robbery, nearly every writer on the masthead signed letters protesting the rights grab. A group of veteran SKI and SKIING contributors — including columnists, contributing editors, and former staff editors — have continued to hold out, refusing to sign this work-for-hire contract. In return, they have been barred from writing for the magazines and lost significant income.

The SKI writers have been backed in their efforts by the National Writers Union and a coalition of organizations representing freelancers. The Coalition includes more than a dozen freelance groups, including the American Society of Journalists & Authors, American Society of Media Photographers, Authors Guild, North American SnowSports Journalists Association, Society of American Travel Writers' Freelance Council, Graphic Artists Guild UAW 3030, and, of course, the NWU.

The NWU's Campaign for Contract Rights

Other huge corporations which own magazines, newspapers, online services, and other electronic media outlets are increasingly rewriting contracts to grab copyrights that rightfully and traditionally belong to creators.

The NWU has taken up the battle to fight for writers' contract rights. This effort has focused on publicising AOL-Time Warner's rights grab and mobilizing opposition among writers, other creators, and the public at large.


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