The Southern African Freelancers’ Association (Safrea) is concerned about the increased frequency with which publishers are republishing freelancers’ commissioned and ‘on spec’ content in other publications in their stable or online without agreement from the relevant journalist, photographer or designer, and without paying them for the re-use.
“We take note of trends like the increase in popularity of the online space, driven even further by smart phones and ereaders. Coupled with the global economic crisis it is understandable that publishing budgets are very tight, but should under no circumstances lead to the exploitation of freelancers or flouting of the law.
“Safrea views reproducing an article or any other work in an additional publication, whether it is an online or a print publication, as additional use of the material,” says chairperson Helen Ueckermann.
Raymond Joseph, a prominent freelance journalist and member of Safrea’s Oversight Committee, said it was unacceptable for media companies to pay for use in one publication, and then leverage the content across multiple platforms within their own organisation, as well as syndicating it without the freelancer benefiting.
In the past there have been instances of freelancers who stand up for their legal rights being perceived as “troublemakers” and not being used after raising issues of their copyright.
“Although Safrea urges its members to stand their ground and insist on payment for additional publication of their work, in practice freelancers are often dependent on publications they work with and are often justifiably afraid of rocking the boat,” says Joseph.
South African copyright law says:
· In the case of writers, the copyright of commissioned or spec work rests with the author.
· In the case of photographers, the copyright of published photographs that have been supplied on spec, rests with the photographer.
Therefore, unless specific agreement has been reached between the creator and the publishing house, it is Safrea’s view that additional use of the material constitutes a breach of copyright. This breach is further compounded by the fact that work posted online is then often subjected to the publisher’s archiving and syndication agreements.