by Linda J. Pedley (March 2011)
A recent discussion, at Writing Friends, brought up the concern with Transcontinental Media and freelance writing contracts. Although the original issue came to light in the fall of 2009, there is still a need as a writer’s group to protect our members by providing information and direction. A great find in my research on the writer’s rights issues, is a web site called – Writer’s Contracts “A resource – and campaign – for freelance writers and journalists” found at http://writerscontracts.com/. The site opens with an article written about a similar “rights grab” by publishers in Australia. It jokingly opened and suggested there must have been a conference where all publishers who attended unilaterally decided to change otherwise good contracts to those with unfair and unreasonable terms. An agreement with a publisher who takes the rights to your work “perpetually” is one to be avoided.
As mentioned above, in 2009 there was a similar “rights grab” issue with the Canadian company, Transcontinental Media, and their unfair contract – even writers, who were writing for years for their publications, were subject to “sign or don’t work” for the media conglomerate. Many choose not to sign, giving up a relationship they’d work years to develop. It is wise to consider your contracts carefully and get advice if you don’t know how to read them – never sign anything that assigns all your intellectual rights, including copyright, and always ensure contracts have a finite limit.
The Writer’s Contracts site has an updated report on the Transcontinental Media issue in a posting on October 22, 2010. They were able to track down a freelance writer involved with the Bad Writing Contracts Canadian campaign. The information supplied there suggests that Transcontinental Media still uses the contract in question and works with writers who will sign it. The contract is out there and it would be wise to check out the site for a list of publications under the Transcontinental Media umbrella http://www.badwritingcontracts.ca/ – note there are no new postings on this site but it provides some good feedback for writers wanting to catch up on the news, especially if you are new to the freelance market. My suggestion would be – don’t be so eager to get your work published that you neglect the rights you own as the creator of those works. Your hard work went into it and you should be compensated, fairly, without question. A fair publisher, who considers your rights, will take the time to review any publishing agreement with you so that you understand all the terms and conditions.
For concise information on Best Practices as put forth by the Professional Writers Association of Canada (PWAC) visit their web site. Find copyright information, professional practices, a standard writer’s agreement, freelance writing fee structure http://www.pwac.ca/eventsandresources/bestpractices