European Federation of Journalists

European Parliament fails to improve the contractual position of authors

The European Parliament’s initiative report  to make proposal to reform EU copyright/authors’ rights law fails to improve the contractual position of authors and performers.

The report adopted in the plenary session yesterday in Strasbourg was drafted by German Eurodeputy Julia Reda and is the result of months of lobbying and heated debates in the hemicycle. The adopted text makes a number of proposals to amend authors’ rights legislation in the EU as a contribution to the European Commission’s upcoming revision package on authors’ rights to be issued by the end of 2015.

While the adopted text makes a specific call for improvements of the contractual position of authors and performers, it also contains a provision that contradicts the purpose of the original text by recalling the importance of freedom of contracts thus undermining steps to strengthen authors’ bargaining power.

Journalists, especially those working as freelance, find themselves in a very weak position when negotiating contracts with publishers and broadcasters. The IFJ and EFJ argue that the principle of freedom of contracts in this case will allow the stronger party such as media conglomerates to exploit the weaker party during the negotiation process. The reality is that journalists are often forced to sign away all their authors’ rights to their employer with no hope for further remuneration when their work is reused on different formats or in different titles.

The IFJ and EFJ have launched a campaign against unfair contracts to highlight damages such contracts can have on journalists’ income and eventually on the quality of journalism. For a contract to be fair, the federations recommend that safeguards should be introduced at EU level to prevent abusive clauses that exploit journalists’ authors’ rights.

The European Commission must reflect on the contractual situation of authors if its copyright package is to sustain the creative workforce in the European Union.