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EFJ welcomes call for copyright reform to guarantee fair pay for authors

7 February 2013

The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) has welcomed the call by Antonio Vitorino, the European Commission’s mediator on copyright contract law reform, for a fair share of licence revenues for journalists and other creators.

Antonio Vitorino, the mediator appointed by the European Commission to review private copying and reprography levies, has recommended the introduction of mandatory rules in copyright contract law or labour law to ensure authors and performers receive an adequate share of income generated from their works. He further pointed out that authors and performers suffer from a lack of bargaining power and there is a need to improve the situation.

Arne König, EFJ president, said:

"We are glad that Mr Vitorino has backed our view that copyright contract law must end unfair contracts and the imbalance in bargaining facing journalists and other creators."

The call came at the end of a detailed review of current private copying and reprography levy systems in the EU. Antonio Vitorino’s report proposes replacing the current levy on the sales of copying equipment with a form of licence-fee system.

The levy collected should then be distributed to authors and other rightholders. Arne König said:

"Private copying and reprography levies are an important source of income for journalists. However, journalists and creators can only benefit from it if two conditions are met.
"First, collecting societies collecting and distributing these levies must operate in a democratic and transparent way to ensure fees are distributed to journalists.
"Second, a copyright contract law that allows journalists and creators to receive a fair share of licence revenues and an equal bargaining footing must be put in place before a licence-fee system is introduced.
"Policy-makers should be reminded the harsh reality that journalists are often forced to sign away their authors’ rights to employers. This means that all revenues will go to the pocket of publishers. Journalists will receive nothing at the end."

This is particularly the case for freelances who are often in a weaker position to negotiate against big media companies. Most of the time, they are not even covered by collective agreements, said Mike Holderness, freelance journalist and Chair of the EFJ Authors’ Rights Expert Group.

Arne König added:

"We hope that Commissioner Michel Barnier will take this particular recommendation on board to eradicate unfair contracts through the legal guarantee of fair remuneration for authors in copyright contract law. Such a measure is long overdue."

Tags: , EFJ, copyright, freelance