Welcome to the website of the Creators' Copyright Coalition. We at the CCC are committed to access to our creative works just as we are committed to copyright: we work for copyright legislation that ensures both. Here on our op-ed pages we will be posting opinion, commentary, links, and news of interest to creators and others engaged in copyright reform. Elsewhere, you'll find our archive of studies, handbooks and press releases. And while we're not currently hosting a discussion forum, comments sent to us may be posted or noted here (unless you ask us not to).

Paying for Quality

By Christopher Moore | May 8, 2009

In the wake of The Globe and Mail‘s settlement with writers over its appropriation of their digital rights, there’s been some discussion of the actual state of newspaper contracts for digital uses of freelancer material.

The Globe now generally acknowledges creator copyright and seeks to licence one-time use in the print edition and “perpetual inclusion in the internal and commercially available databases and other storage media.”

CanWest’s terms are far harsher. Freelance writers are required to “irrevocably” surrender all rights to their work, including moral rights and copyright, with no opportunity for reselling or republishing the material without CanWest’s “express written permission.” CanWest, on the other hand, asserts the right to “exclusively use and exploit” the material “in any manner and in any and all media, whether now known or hereafter devised, throughout the universe, in perpetuity.”

I have never heard this last part read aloud among writers without provoking real laugh-out-loud disbelief (“across the universe?”), but there it is.

One consequence: some significant number of professional writers simply avoid that chain entirely. Former staff writer Charles Gordon and automotive columnist Shannon Lee Mannion are mentioned among those who no longer write for The Citizen and CanWest, because of its freelance terms.

Surely this is not entirely unrelated to CanWest’s edge-of-bankruptyc financial difficulties and the plight of much mainstream journalism in general. Who will pay them for crap when there is so much crap available for free? If newspapers want to offer the good stuff, they will have to be prepared to pay for it.

Now, if we coud get the universities and educators to grasp that, too….

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Robertson v. Thomson: The Globe concedes

By Christopher Moore | May 6, 2009

It’s one small story in The Globe, one large leap for digital culture. The Globe and Mail, after thirty years of appropriating and reselling the work of freelance writers without permission or payment, has admitted defeat and negotiated a settlement with the class action led by Heather Robertson.

Trying to make the best of it after years of stonewalling, Globe counsel Sue Gaudi says:

It is primarily a historical matter from the days before The Globe and Mail entered into written contracts with our freelance contributors. We value our relationships with our freelancers and are happy to move on.

It is much more than that. In a decade and more of fighting the freelancers’ claim to payment, The Globe‘s lawyers insisted on a right to steal. Since they did not have permission to take what they wanted, they created a figleaf called “implied consent.” There would be no contracts, historically or going forward, if the court had supported this drivel.

With Google negotiating terms for sampling books online, with the Pirate Bay guys going to jail, with Kindle and iTunes and a million other systems demonstrating how access and rights co-exist in the digital world, that romantic moment when digital piracy seemed to be the wave of the future seems to be receding.

Congratulations to Heather Robertson and all her compadres; a difficult struggle, a remarkable victory. (Personal Note: I’m pretty sure I contributed nothing to The Globe in the period covered by the lawsuit and settlement and do not expect to be claiming a share of the long-delayed payment.)

Addendum: My extended take on this story from a couple of years ago here.

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