Read before you sign
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.