This letter has just been sent out to many regular Guardian contributors, and is the culmination of months of denials, that such a decision had been made.
Re. Change to terms and conditions for commissioned photography
You will no doubt be aware that we, like every other media outlet in the UK, are experiencing very difficult trading conditions brought about by declining circulations and falling advertising revenues.
As a result we have been compelled to review all of our costs across the company, including the terms and conditions under which we trade with news and picture agencies and freelances.
We are writing to inform you that GNM will cease paying reuse fees in respect of photography it commissions from 01 September 2009. What this means is that from this date GNM's standard terms for commissioned photography shall include a non-exclusive, perpetual licence to re-use commissioned photography in its products and services without further payment.
For your reassurance, copyright ownership of the pictures you supply to GNM
remains with you; stock photography and photography commissioned prior to
01 September 2009 are unaffected and will continue to attract our
standard space rates; and our standard syndication terms remain unchanged.
Our Freelance Charter (http://www.guardian.co.uk/guardian/article/0,,409883,00.html) and the notifications you receive from GNM when you are commissioned will be updated accordingly.
Should you have any queries regarding the change to our terms and conditions, please contact email@example.com.
Guardian News & Media Ltd
This is the letter I have just sent in response to Chris Elliott at the Guardian. Now he won't care what I say, probably won't care if a score of us write. But if every single photographer reading this were to write, then GNM might just listen.
Just remember, selling rights to our work is what makes us Professional photographers. If our clients start eroding those rights further, along with that fact that there is simply less work around today, then more of us will find it impossible to make a living.
Today the Guardian, tomorrow everyone else. It has to stop now, and only as a group can we do this.
Please write your own letter today.
Guardian News & Media Ltd
Wednesday, 29 July 2009
Dear Mr Elliott,
I am most disappointed to learn of the letter that Guardian News & Media Ltd is sending to photographers advising them that GNM is now unilaterally making a rights grab on all work commissioned by the organisation.
After the loyal service that so many of GNM contributors have given, and bearing in mind the static nature of payments to freelance photographers in the industry over the past fifteen years, combined with the championing of the under-trodden that GNM prides itself on, it seems very out of character (and totally unnecessary) for GNM to deliberately rob its own suppliers in this way.
Photographers are hardly over-charging GNM, indeed the commissioned picture Day rates: £170.20 (0-4 hours); £248.75 (4 hrs +) are hardly excessive, and well below the professional rates charged by virtually every other profession, and certainly do not take into account the extensive equipment costs and general overheads that a professional editorial photographer has today (easily £90+ for most professionals).
It is not professional editorial freelance photographers who have caused the shortfall in GNM income, so why is GNM penalising its lifeblood suppliers in this way?
GNM is always priding itself on the quality of its contributors, and the high quality work they produce. With the increasing demands on suppliers that GNM is making, from syndication to this latest rights grab, GNM will make it difficult for any professional to want to supply the Observer or the Guardian in the future.
These are difficult times for us all, not just GNM. GNM should respect the rights of its contributors. If GNM needs more rights then it should pay for them. Freelance contributors want to respect GNM, but that respect has to be a two-way thing.
As per my previous correspondence, my work is available on a one-fee, one-use basis, and I do not accept the new revision of the terms.
Freelances, contract and otherwise who have supplied the Guardian And GNM for decades in some case are at the same time flabbergasted and up in arms.
How can they do this to us?
Why are they doing this to us?
What possibly makes this a good idea?
That newspapers are having some difficulties is not questioned, that they are possibly the very agents that have accelerated their own demise is thought by many to be the case. For several years now the prophets of doom, many of them within the senior management of not just the Guardian and Observer but many other National newspapers as well have been telling us that the position of newspapers is untenable, that they can’t possibly survive.
And yet at the same time these same newspapers have been turning remarkably good profits and excellent returns to their various shareholders.
Newspapers themselves tell us that it is all falling apart, yet senior management continue to cut staff, take money out of the companies.
Now every publication has the right to cut staff, if that is what they wish to do. They have the right not to use freelance material if the so decide. But to unilaterally just assume rights that they don’t wish to pay for, which simply takes money out of the freelance pocket – pockets which are not very deep these days is unjust, unfair, and immoral.
Member of: The National Union of Journalists