Photographers object to 'exploitative' News UK contracts that will leave them 'much worse off'

Photographers have objected to a new contracted offered to regular contributors to News UK that they described as “exploitative” and “rights-grabbing”

The National Union of Journalists and British Press Photographers’ Association have joined together to ask the Times and Sun publisher to reconsider the terms, which they say will drastically reduce freelance photographers’ income by stripping away their rights to their commissioned work.

The new more rigid contract, which will give photographers who sign it “preferred” status making it more likely their work will be used, appears to formally grant News UK exclusive use in perpetuity of commissioned work meaning the photographers would not be able to resell their work themselves.

The contract, seen by Press Gazette, would also formally grant the publisher exclusive syndication rights to sub-licence and resell the material in perpetuity, with the photographer getting 50% of the syndication revenue.

The photographer would have to refer anyone who tries to contact them to buy an image commissioned by News UK to the publisher, and in this instance would get 60% of the fee.

The NUJ and BPPA said News UK was also changing its payments for non-commissioned work: instead of paying for each use, they say it will have three days of use across print and online for one fee.

The groups also said the proposed new contract “strips contributors of their secondary rights, requires all moral rights to be waived and subjects them to an unacceptable indemnity clause making contributors, not News UK, liable for crippling claims and costs incurred against the publisher in relation to the images provided”.

Natasha Hirst, chair of the NUJ’s Photographers’ Council, said in a statement: “This disgraceful contract is wholly unacceptable and has no place in our industry. It is completely exploitative, strips photographers of most of their rights and will leave them much worse off.

“Why a news organisation feels it needs to give photographers, most of whom have struggled to work because of Covid-19, this sort of kicking beggars belief.”

The BPPA added: “Publishers imposing new contracts without discussion, explanation or negotiation is a poor way to deal with loyal and committed freelancers at any time – and to do this when incomes are down and in the middle of a worldwide pandemic would appear to be both opportunistic and ill-judged.”

The NUJ said it has written to News UK to request a constructive conversation around the terms but has not yet heard back. The publisher did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

Picture: Reuters/David W Cerny

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