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Freelancers lose bid to enjoin contract covering previous work

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  1. Content Restrictions

    NMU         MASSACHUSETTS         Copyrights & Trademarks         Jul 14, 2000    

Freelancers lose bid to enjoin contract covering previous work

  • The Boston Globe’s new licensing agreement with freelancers gives the publisher the right to reproduce freelancers’ work without compensation

A group of freelance journalists lost their bid for an injunction that would keep The Boston Globe from enforcing a new licensing agreement that gives the newspaper rights to reprint all past and future works by the journalists in any medium.

Suffolk County Superior Court Judge Carol Ball denied the injunction request on June 26.

The licensing agreement gives the Globe “the right to put the [freelancer’s] work on, in The Globe‘s archives, in commercial databases that carry The Globe and in any media or package that has The Globe‘s ‘brand’ now and in the future, with no extra payment” to the freelancers for the reproduction of their work. The licensing contract “shall last for the entire term of copyright in any accepted Work,” and extends to “all of the Works that The Globe has previously accepted from [the freelancers]” at “no additional fee paid by The Globe” to the freelancers. The freelancers would still retain the copyright in their work.

The licensing contract, which took effect on July 1, has been signed by 452 of the Globe‘s approximately 750 freelancers. Any freelancer who had not signed the agreement by that date had their relationship with the Globe terminated.

The Globe said the impetus behind the new licensing contract was a recent federal appellate court decision holding that a freelancer’s work in a printed publication could not be reprinted on the publisher’s website without the freelancer’s permission.

“We had been running two separate databases, and were not posting freelancer’s [articles] on the site,” a spokesman for the Globe explained. The new licensing agreement allows the publisher to post freelancer’s articles on its website, so the web content matches the content in a given day’s actual newspaper.

In court, the freelancers argued that the contract was unconscionable because “the bargaining power is so unbalanced . . . the freelancer has no bargaining power and The Globe can say take it or leave it.”

(Marx v. Globe Newspaper Co.; Freelancer’s Attorneys: Ira Sills and Indira Talwani, Boston, Globe Counsel: William Berkowitz, Boston) JM

© 2000 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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