Government to look at copyright rules which 'treat journalists like serfs'

Media secretary Andy Burnham has promised to meet MPs to discuss journalists’ concern that the government review of copyright law is threatening their livelihoods.

Labour MP and former National Union of Journalists president Denis McShane told the minister in the Commons that writers, especially freelancers, were angered about ‘the swindles that denied them their property: their copyright”.

Burnham agreed to meet the all-party writers group of MPs, of which McShane is vice chairman.

‘We all need to apply our minds to the issue with some urgency, and come up with solutions that are fair to industry and, crucially to the creators of the high quality content that people want,’Burnham said.

Members of the NUJ‘s London freelance branch met at the Commons on Monday to discuss their concerns about the Gowers Review, the independent review into intellectual property rights. In advance of the meeting at media questions on Monday, Labour MP David Drew invited Burnham to send a message to journalists who see themselves threatened by the onset of new technology.

Burnham told the Stroud MP: ‘There’s a balance to be struck. It is a good thing that people can freely access information and the work of writers but we must get the balance right. We will shortly publish a consultation document containing some options.”

McShane, MP for Rotherham told Press Gazette: ‘Journalist’s copyright belongs to the journalist and should not be expropriated by newspaper. If a journalist assigns the copyright, if he is a staff journalist, that is another matter.

‘It is like a form of feudalism and journalists are being treated like serfs.”

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