New proposed provisions narrows authors’ copyrights say Content Writers Group founder.

The Globe and Mail has received criticism for a revamped freelance contract that one critics says doesn’t treat authors fairly.

Content Writers Group — formerly known as the Canadian Writers Group — founder Derek Finkle said the provisions in the Globe’s amended and restated” freelance contract take away rights freelancers previously retained, with no extra compensation in sight.

“The freelancer retains their copyright over the work but the contract makes those rights so narrow that you don’t really have the rights to your work,” Finkle said.

For example, the contract demands freelancers give up moral rights to their contracted material, Finkle said. The CWG said that obligates freelance writers to “give publishers the right to essentially mutilate your work in ways that you might not agree with.”  Finkle added that it gives the company the power to rewrite copy freely, even if it changes the meaning of the work.

The danger, Finkle explained, is that authors would lose the right to challenge editorial changes that fundamentally alter the article’s intent. “It seems to mean, if a writer wrote something mean about Donald Trump, the paper is free to turn it around and make it a nice story about Donald Trump,” Finkle said. “Moral Rights is about control over the work”

Jim Jennings, the Globe’s associate publisher, would not comment on either the contract`s moral rights language. “Each (contract) has a confidentially clause associated with it and as such cannot comment on any individual situation.”

When J-Source sent Jennings a quote from the 2017 contract and asked him for comment, he did not respond.  

Article 3 of the revised August 2017 contract, sent to J-Source by the CWG, reads:

“The Freelancer grants to The Globe a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, exclusive licence to publish, display, retain, archive, use, store, create compilations, translate, produce, reproduce, perform in public, broadcast and communicate to the public by telecommunication the contracted materials, in all media and in all formats whatsoever, whether now known or created in the future, in whole or in part, in connection with any product or service of The Globe or any of its current or future affiliates, and to sub-license such rights to any current or future licensee of The Globe. The Freelancer waives all moral rights in and to the contracted materials in favour of The Globe and its licensees, and the Freelancer acknowledges that The Globe may edit, modify or alter the contracted materials at its discretion. The Freelancer reserves the right to use the contracted materials for its own personal and non-commercial uses.”

Finkle said no previous Globe contract, to his knowledge, asked freelancers to give up moral rights to their work.

For example, the Globe’s July 2011 contract, which, Finkle said, preceded the one quoted above reads: “the Author will retain copyright in the original contracted material provided to The Globe.” The 2011 agreement also allows the contracted material to be used by products published by the Globe, its affiliates or licensees and it asks that freelance writers not “provide contracted material to any competing organization.”

However, the words “moral rights,” are absent in that 2011 agreement.

Other companies have tried to introduce the moral rights language, since. In 2013, Transcontinental Media, which publishes Elle Canada, Canadian Living, Style at Home, The Hockey News and Vancouver Magazine, tried to update its 2009 agreement with provisions demanding it have the power to revoke writers’ bylines and to take moral rights to freelancers’ work. That led to a boycott by the Canadian Media Guild and 14 other writers’ groups, the CWG noted.

Finkle said the Globe taking away moral rights from freelancers is unnecessary. “The Globe said (taking away moral rights from freelancers) is necessary for translating the articles into another language. But you don’t need moral rights for translation. En Route magazine translates everything into French,” Finkle said.

A clause that grants the Globe irrevocable, worldwide and exclusive publishing, displaying and compiling rights is also a cause for concern, said Finkle.

“What’s supposed to happen now is, if a freelance writer wants to republish an article she writes or wrote for the Globe as a freelancer in a book or for something that’s commercial, not personal, she (now) needs the Globe’s permission,” he said.

The Copyright Act’s base standard is that creators retain copyright and therefore don’t require permission to republish their works, unless they sign that right away.  

“We do require freelance work created for the Globe to be exclusive to us. We can, and have, however, at the discretion of the editor, allowed work to subsequently appear in other publications or their various platforms,” Jennings said.

But the possibility of gaining permission from the Globe isn’t good enough, to keep the new provisions from significantly eroding writers`power, Finkle said. “In short, journalists retain a formal copyright to your work. But other than save it in a box under your bed or put it on your website, you can’t do anything with the work without the company’s permission.