Bauer, a German-owned publisher which bought music magazines Kerrang!, MOJO and Q in December of 2007 from Emap is trying to impose a new contract on freelancers working for those titles. Over 200 contributors to the three magazines have refused to sign the new contract which contains clauses that “provide Bauer with an unlimited lifetime financial indemnity in the event of legal action arising from their work” and “to acquire licenses from their subjects for the company to use their image for its own profit as and when it wishes.”
In a cover letter delivered with the contracts, Bauer issued the ultimatum that after April 16th any contributors who do not sign will no longer be commissioned.
Here’s a copy of the contract someone sent to me a month or so ago:
I received a press release signed by several of the freelancers standing up to Bauer that states:
A committee of the freelances affected has been attempting to enter into dialogue with Bauer since the first draft was issued late in February, but the company has rebuffed every overture. “Their behaviour is bizarre and counter-productive,” says Iggy Pop’s biographer Trynka, who was previously responsible for overseeing MOJO and Q syndication and contracts. “As contributors, we share Bauer’s need for their titles to remain profitable, and are offering Bauer permission to use some material on the iPad and similar digital platforms for no extra payment.”
Attempted rights grabs like Bauer’s are far more than an assault on a specific group of music writers and photographers – they undermine the viability of freelance journalism as a whole. Freelances bear a significant proportion of the risk in most media businesses because, behind their commission-by-commission availability, they pay for their own equipment, office space and training. Without any of the statutory sickness, holiday, maternity and paternity pay rights of staff, the only asset their work produces is their stock-in-trade: copyright ownership, as acknowledged by UK law. Will Bauer’s magazines sell more copies if they push these contracts through, so losing the services of many of their most expert, reliable and popular contributors? Will musicians and other showbusiness talent stand idly by and see their quotes and photographic likenesses commoditized and put on sale by a publishing company? In business terms, it doesn’t make sense.
The other magazines Bauer purchased from Emap, include Empire, Heat, Closer, Grazia, Max Power, MCN, Match!, FHM and Zoo. All are expected to see a similar contract unless this one is defeated.