Freelances complain over 'outrageous' Bauer contract

Consumer magazine publisher Bauer has come under fire from freelance journalists over an ‘outrageous’new contract, which the NUJ believes could leave writers on their own to fight any legal action.

The union said it had received around a dozen complaints about the contract – which officials described as one of the harshest they had seen.

The document, seen by Press Gazette, require freelances to sign away all of their copyright and appears to require them to take full responsibility for the work in the event of a legal complaint.

‘You represent, warrant and undertake that nothing in the commissioned works will be obscene, indecent, racist, defamatory or otherwise objectionable under any law,’the contract says.

‘You shall indemnify us for any breach of [this]. You agree to co-operate fully in responding to and defending complaints and claims.”

The agreement applies to H Bauer, the publisher of titles including Take A Break and Bella, and not to the newly acquired former Emap titles, including FHM and Grazia, which are part of a separate division, Bauer Consumer Media.

NUJ freelance organiser, John Toner, said he had written to Bauer raising concerns about the contract and had offered to meet the publisher to discuss rewording it.

‘This is one of the more outrageous contracts I have seen from a publisher in this country,’he said. ‘I’d be surprised if anyone’s signed it so far.

‘To grab the freelance’s copyright for a one-off fee is bad enough, but to expect the freelance to then indemnify the publisher simply adds potentially ruinous injury to injury.”

The NUJ has also objected to a clause in the contract which it said requires freelances to ask interviewees to sign away the copyright in any photographs they supply.

‘Either the commissioned works will be in their entirety your own original work or you have obtained all rights in the commissioned works from any third party,’the contract says.

Toner said: ‘The people who co-operate with [real-life] stories are usually happy for their picture to be published. I would imagine that not very many of them understand copyright law.

‘When you ask them to transfer the copyright in the picture, they probably require a lot of explanation as to what you mean by that. Why would they agree to give up the copyright in their own pictures just to have the story in the magazine?”

In a statement, Bauer confirmed it had been approached by the NUJ, but said the union had misinterpreted the contract. The publisher said it was ‘working with them to clarify the concerns that have been raised”.

‘We have put in place a new commissioning agreement and would like to emphasise that it is for work that we have physically commissioned for our use,’the company said.

‘As regards indemnifying Bauer against all legal issues, this is not the case and where this has been misinterpreted we are clarifying it for those who have raised concerns.

‘With regards to rights, this is not unusual and will be found in the T&C’s of most major publishers.”Consumer magazine publisher Bauer has come under fire from freelance journalists over an ‘outrageous’new contract, which the NUJ believes could leave writers on their own to fight any legal action.

The union said it had received around a dozen complaints about the contract – which officials described as one of the harshest they had seen.

The document, seen by Press Gazette, require freelances to sign away all of their copyright and appears to require them to take full responsibility for the work in the event of a legal complaint.

‘You represent, warrant and undertake that nothing in the commissioned works will be obscene, indecent, racist, defamatory or otherwise objectionable under any law,’the contract says.

‘You shall indemnify us for any breach of [this]. You agree to co-operate fully in responding to and defending complaints and claims.”

The agreement applies to H Bauer, the publisher of titles including Take A Break and Bella, and not to the newly acquired former Emap titles, including FHM and Grazia, which are part of a separate division, Bauer Consumer Media.

NUJ freelance organiser, John Toner, said he had written to Bauer raising concerns about the contract and had offered to meet the publisher to discuss rewording it.

‘This is one of the more outrageous contracts I have seen from a publisher in this country,’he said. ‘I’d be surprised if anyone’s signed it so far.

‘To grab the freelance’s copyright for a one-off fee is bad enough, but to expect the freelance to then indemnify the publisher simply adds potentially ruinous injury to injury.”

The NUJ has also objected to a clause in the contract which it said requires freelances to ask interviewees to sign away the copyright in any photographs they supply.

‘Either the commissioned works will be in their entirety your own original work or you have obtained all rights in the commissioned works from any third party,’the contract says.

Toner said: ‘The people who co-operate with [real-life] stories are usually happy for their picture to be published. I would imagine that not very many of them understand copyright law.

‘When you ask them to transfer the copyright in the picture, they probably require a lot of explanation as to what you mean by that. Why would they agree to give up the copyright in their own pictures just to have the story in the magazine?”

In a statement, Bauer confirmed it had been approached by the NUJ, but said the union had misinterpreted the contract. The publisher said it was ‘working with them to clarify the concerns that have been raised”.

‘We have put in place a new commissioning agreement and would like to emphasise that it is for work that we have physically commissioned for our use,’the company said.

‘As regards indemnifying Bauer against all legal issues, this is not the case and where this has been misinterpreted we are clarifying it for those who have raised concerns.

‘With regards to rights, this is not unusual and will be found in the T&C’s of most major publishers.”

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