Concerns raised over Bauer Media’s Commission Agreement
If you’re a freelance photographer and one of your clients asks you to sign a contract in order to become one of its ‘preferred suppliers’, it always pays to read the fine print very carefully.
Last month Bauer Media Group, New Zealand’s largest magazine publisher, presented its contributors with a Commission Agreement contract that has left many freelance photographers, illustrators, and writers feeling concerned and outraged.
One of the most alarming clauses of the Bauer agreement states that the “contributor assigns to Bauer, as an outright sale, from the date of its creation all existing and future copyright throughout the world in the works.” This means that Bauer would gain sole and exclusive ownership of all images (including outtakes) created as a result of any commission. As such, they could use the photos in any way, in any publication, in any medium (including advertising), and even resell them to other businesses, without any further payment or compensation provided to the contributor. The contract also goes on to suggest that contributors must procure third-party consents that would allow Bauer to exercise unlimited and perpetual usage rights — consents that would be practically impossible to obtain.
The Advertising and Illustrative Photography Association (AIPA) held a meeting on March 11 to discuss the Bauer agreement, and inform freelancers about the implications of signing a contract that we’re told independent legal experts have called “entirely one-sided” and “onerous”.
As well as handing over all intellectual property rights and waiving moral rights, contributors could also be faced with a situation where they will be made to pay “all expense, loss, damage, penalty or cost” incurred by Bauer as a result of any legal action that may occur. The AIPA executive director, Aaron K, recommended that all freelancers reject the Bauer contract, and only agree to accept assignments under the AIPA Standard Photographic Terms and Conditions of Engagement. He went on to state that, “You’re the supplier, and it’s the supplier’s role to set the terms and conditions. You’re all independent business owners, so you should be setting your own terms of trade, just like every other professional business.”
As we write this, the AIPA confirmed that, “More than 70 editorial photographers, including many of Bauer’s top freelance contributors, have now stated they will refuse to work under Bauer’s onerous Commissioning Agreement. A significant number of freelance writers have also said the same.”
Freelance editorial photographers who want to be kept up to date about this issue can join the new Editorial Photographers New Zealand (EPNZ) online forum at epnz.proboards.com.