Thursday, January 24, 2008

Attention Canadian Freelancers: CanWest Media Works Wants (All of) You

I pass along the cross-posted, and self-explanatory, item below about a familiar all-rights-contract fight, this one in Canada.


(SPECIAL MEETING of Media Club members and concerned writers. Saturday, January 26, SEE below...)

Thousands of freelance writers across Canada who are being bullied into signing an inimical Freelance Agreement sent to us in late-2007 by Canadian media giant, CanWest MediaWorks.

You can see a copy of this contract and the response one writers' group had by clicking on the URL below. Other groups have also protested including the Professional Writers of Canada (PWAC) and soon, the Canadian Association of Journalist (CAJ) and the Canadian Freelance Union (CFU):

The covering letter sent to Ottawa Citizen writers stipulates that unless contributors sign by December 31/07, they will not be paid for their articles. Many have refused to capitulate.

Freelancers who sign such a contract no longer own their work after it has been published by CanWest MediaWorks and therefore have no opportunity to re-sell it. Taken to absurdity, if a freelance writer published a weekly gardening column for several years and then wanted to compile these articles into a book, under the contract, they would not be allowed to.

This new contract does not allow for any additional money for articles that are reprinted throughout the chain and there is no remuneration for electronic rights. This in particular runs counter to a newly proposed Federal bill, C-60. The 50% a freelancer might receive from
commercial use syndication is something we have not heard about before and needs
explanation. It may be for sales to third or fourth parties but this is something freelancers have always done themselves; it's part of our livelihood.

Freelance journalists all over Canada are in an uproar over this contract. Many continue to write regular columns and to submit work but will they be paid?

There is also a concern that not all freelancers received the contact and one wonders what criteria is being used here. Once one signs the contract, there is no room for negotiation and yet those who don't receive the contract, they seem to have carte blanche. One colleague who publishes a column in the Citizen told me that he receives three times what others receive, he does not give up his rights, and he gets 10% for electronic rights. Why is this when the work is essentially the same?

As chairman of the Freelance Policy Committee of the Canadian Association of Journalists, my committee has been looking into systemic problems in our print media. Radio and TV fare better because there is the CRTC to adjudicate; we need to do something about safeguarding print.

Since writers in Ottawa, and perhaps across the country, who have refused to abrogate their rights by signing the contract are not being paid for work that is being published, or worse, have been dismissed, it is important to have a quick response.

Wayne Kines of World Media Institute has secured the meeting room at his condo for a SPECIAL MEETING of Media Club members and concerned writers. Please meet with us this coming weekend. Here are the details:

WHAT: A discussion about freelance writer rights and what to do about contracts that don't uphold them. Moderated by Rosaleen Dickson.

WHERE: 20 The Driveway (18-storey condo between McLaren and Somerset West
on Queen Elizabeth Driveway by the Corktown Footbridge) Buzz 107 for the Meeting Room aka Party Room, watch for directional signs.

WHEN: Saturday, January 26/08, 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

WHY: Because we're fed-up and not going to take it any more

Refreshments served. No need to RSVP. Just come!

For more information, please email

Shannon Lee Mannion (613) 594-9128
Photo-Journalist to the Cars
Ottawa, Canada


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