Read be­fore you sign

The Shed - - Editorial -

It felt as if I had only been wear­ing my edi­tor hat for five min­utes, and I was al­ready sit­ting among the pro­fes­sion­als at the AIPA-hosted meet­ing about the Com­mis­sion­ing Agree­ment that Bauer Me­dia Group has sent to all its free­lancers. It took me a grand to­tal of maybe two min­utes to be shocked at the ex­ces­sive con­trol Bauer is try­ing to ex­ert over pho­tog­ra­phers’, il­lus­tra­tors’, and writ­ers’ cre­ations. My uni­ver­sity back­ground in jour­nal­ism taught all about cred­it­ing peo­ple for the work they’ve sup­plied, from an im­age to go along with a news story, to mak­ing sure peo­ple’s words are cor­rectly quoted and at­trib­uted. How­ever, sign­ing this one doc­u­ment from Bauer could mean free­lancers will see their work in the pages of the mag­a­zine, sure, but they may not know where or what it is used for again in the fu­ture — and in­stead of be­ing paid for this on­go­ing use, they may find them­selves pay­ing for it in­stead.

I think, more than any­thing, one of the state­ments men­tioned dur­ing the meet­ing that stood out to me was that while this agree­ment has been cir­cu­lat­ing around the globe, it’s been re­jected in other ter­ri­to­ries as it con­tra­venes ex­ist­ing laws. Ac­cord­ing to Free­lance — a bul­letin of the Lon­don Free­lance Branch of the Na­tional Union of Jour­nal­ists — a court in Ham­burg, Ger­many, struck out spe­cific pro­vi­sions within the con­tract that the multi­na­tional pub­lisher was try­ing to get free­lance pho­tog­ra­phers to sign. Such clauses as, “oblig­ing the pho­tog­ra­phers to in­dem­nify Bauer for costs of any legal ac­tion by third par­ties aris­ing from this work” were de­clared il­le­gal un­der Ger­man laws.

I can say that I’m one of the guilty who have signed a form or checked the ‘I agree to the terms and con­di­tions’ boxes with­out fully ab­sorb­ing what it is that I am agree­ing to, but if what you’re sign­ing could have a ma­jor im­pact on your cho­sen ca­reer and the art that you cre­ate, I think it’s pretty safe to say the fine print should be dis­sected un­til it’s clear ex­actly what you’re sign­ing up for. Don’t be afraid to im­pose your own terms and con­di­tions in­stead, as, from what I gath­ered at the AIPA meet­ing, you’re the one car­ry­ing out the work — im­pose your own rules.

While I’ve got your at­ten­tion, I’m very in­ter­ested to hear what you’d like to see in The Pho­tog­ra­pher’s Mail. Send your thoughts and feed­back to edi­[email protected]­tog­ra­phers­mail.co.nz. I look for­ward to get­ting to know you all over the com­ing is­sues.

Lara Wy­att

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