Photographers challenge Guardian rights grab
4 August 2009
More than 30 photographers and their supporters demonstrated for their creative rights outside the Guardian and Observer offices in London this morning. John Toner, NUJ Freelance Organiser, handed in a petition signed by 850 photo-journalists.
The protest was in response to the Guardian News & Media (GNM) announcement that they will no longer pay for re-use of pictures commissioned from today's date.
In a letter to contributors dated 28 July, Managing Editor Chris Elliott stated that the company's standard terms for commissioned photography shall include "a non-exclusive, perpetual licence to re-use commissioned photography in its products and services without further payment."
Jeremy Dear, NUJ General Secretary, told the rally:
"I am here to express the solidarity of the whole union with this fight.
"If we are successful here it will help us to defend attacks on freelance conditions elsewhere in the industry."
Jeremy Dear also sent solidarity from the demo to Observer journalists who are fighting for the future of their paper.
Steve Bell, Guardian cartoonist and member of the paper's NUJ chapel committee, told protestors:
"Comment may be free, but content is not free. This move is theft of people's work and their right to make a living from it.
"The capturing of an image that defines the moment is a vital skill – especially in this digital age."
John Toner said:
"Press photographers are suffering severe hardship as a result of the economic downturn. Re-use is not free use."
Tom Davies, who represents London on the NUJ national executive and is a member of the Guardian chapel committee, also attended the rally.
He said afterwards:
"Its important that photographers and non photographers, staff and freelance understand what's at stake.
"Wanting to use people's work for free, and other arbitrary cuts being made go against the ethos of the Guardian."
GNM are also in talks with their contract photographers – who are already resisting moves to end payment for re-use.
The Guardian NUJ Chapel has agreed to represent the contractees in a collective grievance.
This company's latest proposals will affect hundreds of photographers in the UK and further afield. More than 800 have signed an online petition.