Unpaid Newspaper Blogger Says Enough: New No Pay Contract Now Demands All Rights to Photos, Writing Forever

20 Mar

Unpaid Newspaper Blogger Refuses to Sign New No Pay Contract After New Demand of All Rights of  Her Writing and Photos in Perpetuity: Several of the Papers 28 Bloggers Have Joined Her Refusing to Sign Today’s Contract. Blogs Removed From Paper’s Website

By Nate Thayer

March 20, 2013

This morning,  28 unpaid bloggers for a “big time” New York state newspaper received a new contract which requires them to agree to not only no payment for their work, but demands they turn over all rights in perpetuity for their writings and photographs as well.

The new contract comes shortly after the paper began creating a revenue stream from placing advertisements on the blogs.

One popular blogger said enough is enough, and refused to sign the contract. The paper promptly removed her blog from its website. At least two other of the newspapers bloggers have joined the woman and refused to accept the contract terms, and said enough is enough. A published author, writer, photographer and freelance journalist, Cindi has been a blogger since 2007. You can contact her at  mylifeinfocus (at) yahoo (dot) com

In the wake of  the recent kerfuffle regarding similar practices by the Atlantic magazine, the blogger is among hundreds who have sent me similar messages

A published author, Cindi is a freelance journalist and photographer who had, until this morning, a very popular blog at a “big time” newspaper, which she asked remain unnamed for the time being, for which she was paid exactly nothing–as are all the other bloggers at the paper.

After recently putting advertising on the blog sites, the newspaper, which Cindi asked remain anonymous for now, sent the bloggers an email which mentioned they would be getting a new contract soon. It arrived this morning.

For Cindy and her colleagues, that the new contract demanded all ownership rights to their writing and photographs in perpetuity in addition to no pay after creating a direct revenue stream to profit from their work, was apparently too much. “A quick read of our new contracts revealed that we were to be paid ‘zero’ and would be signing away all our rights to our own content, including photographs, from now to perpetuity.  The newspaper, once we signed this new contract, would claim all profits that would be generated from our creativity. To me, this was now a different ballgame.  This had become quite serious.”

Today, Cindi refused to sign the contract. I politely thanked the newspaper for my past opportunity with them. I also politely informed them that I was not comfortable with the new arrangement going forward and would decline signing the new contract.  In turn, they immediately pulled down my blog,” she wrote on her personal blog, My Life In Focus Life is a bowl of Photos”.

You can visit her blog and read the entire post at http://mylifeinfocusblog.wordpress.com/ and offer your support to the principled 60 year old woman.

The post, titled “Would You Work For Free? said: About a year ago I was offered a position to write a daily blog for a big time news organization.  I knew this would be a great opportunity for my career.  The only caveat was that I wouldn’t be paid for my efforts. At that time, it didn’t matter since I was going to use the position for my own benefit.  But a funny thing happened along the way.  My blog became very popular and the newspaper saw a big increase in readership.”

“Nobody likes working for free, as this recent blog post from a highly successful writer, Nate Thayer, points out. With nearly 700 comments from other freelance journalists, the consensus is that writers should not give away their services without some kind of compensation.  When a for-profit news conglomerate earns money, the writer responsible for the profit should be paid for his/her effort.  Pure and simple,” she wrote.

The contract arrived today during the vigorous discussion sparked quite unexpectedly by the posting of an email exchange between myself and the Atlantic magazine where I politely but firmly refused their request to use what I do for living in exchange for—well in exchange for nothing. This post went viral. My free, obscure personal blog which averaged well under 100 readers a day prior to this entirely unexpected tsunami, within hours had over 300,000 visitors. Hundreds of discussions began internationally on the question of for-profit media companies refusing to pay contributors who produce the product they then sell to increase their profit margin. I have received hundreds of supportive emails and thousands of comments from artists, writers, photographers and journalists who have similar experiences.

This morning, I sent Cindy a supportive note. Good for you. The trajectory of your arrangement with the paper highlights exactly when there are reasonable conditions to write for free and precisely when they cross that line and should be firmly rejected.”

Cindi wrote back a very kind note: You have been an inspiration to me as well as my fellow bloggers on this particular newspaper. I forwarded them your post and it seems to have changed most people’s mind. My fellow writers are giving the newspaper ‘hell’ and demanding to be compensated! I’ll keep you posted. Again, thank you.”

And I replied: Please do. If everyone who blogs for your paper together took a similar stand, I am quite confident the owners would realize that eliminating paying the people who produce the product they sell to increase their profit margin as a viable (not to mention ethical) business model is, in fact, not only not viable, but the price they will pay in credibility and reader loyalty for such an odious usurious outrage will translate into a real loss in profits. Keep me posted. I have gotten hundreds of messages from people doing just as you are. Good on ya’.”

About 20 minutes ago, Cindi contacted me. The bloggers I contacted have refused to sign their new contracts. Good for them!”

Here are some excerpts from Cindy’s blog post this morning:

Would You Work For Free?

About a year ago I was offered a position to write a daily blog for a big time news organization.  I knew this would be a great opportunity for my career.  The only caveat was that I wouldn’t be paid for my efforts. At that time, it didn’t matter since I was going to use the position for my own benefit.  But a funny thing happened along the way.  My blog became very popular and the newspaper saw a big increase in readership.

…Fast forward to today and yes, indeed, the publisher just recently started placing advertisements on our blogs. We were informed in a casual email that ads had been placed and oh, yes, BTW, we were being sent a new contract to sign.

A quick read of our new contracts revealed that we were to be paid ‘zero’ and would be signing away all our rights to our own content, including photographs, from now to perpetuity.  The newspaper, once we signed this new contract, would claim all profits that would be generated from our creativity. To me, this was now a different ballgame.  This had become quite serious.

…apparently, I’m not alone in my gut feelings.  This seems to be a common practice among the news media (think: Huffington Post) They “hire” writers, promising them the benefits of the newspaper’s readership in exchange for non-wages.  That may be OK if you want to jump-start your career but after a while, it becomes quite dull. And exploitative.

No body likes working for free, as this recent blog post from a highly successful writer, Nate Thayer, points out. With nearly 700 comments from other freelance journalists, the consensus is that writers should not give away their services without some kind of compensation.  When a for-profit news conglomerate earns money, the writer responsible for the profit should be paid for his/her effort.  Pure and simple.

I politely thanked the newspaper for my past opportunity with them. I also politely informed them that I was not comfortable with the new arrangement going forward and would decline signing the new contract.  In turn, they immediately pulled down my blog. I was fine with that because at least my past writings and photographs are still mine. No one else owns the rights nor make money off of them, in perpetuity….

….It takes a lot of effort to write. I do a lot of research before I put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard). I put a lot of time and effort in to my photographs as well. I recently bought a new camera.  I’ve been taking courses.  I consider my creative works (writing and photos) to be my children.  Much time and effort goes in to this creativity.  To casually give away my rights to my efforts from now to infinity is abhorrent. I hope you feel the same way.

And so the beat goes on.”

To read her entire post got to http://mylifeinfocusblog.wordpress.com/2013/03/20/would-you-work-for-free/

Less than a month ago, her blog had this poignant and sober tale of how the financial crisis is affecting her family life. It is a must read at http://mylifeinfocusblog.wordpress.com/2013/02/27/the-tale-of-a-dollar-and-how-were-being-financially-squeezed/

Here is an excerpt. To read the wonderful end go to Cindi’s blog.

February 27, 2013

The Tale Of A Dollar and How We’re Being Financially Squeezed.

I found a dollar bill on the floor yesterday.  It was there, fair and square, sitting on the ground in-between two parked cars: theirs and mine.  No body was around.  I looked.  So, I picked up the dollar bill and thanked the spirits and put it in my almost empty wallet.  I only had a few coins in my wallet this week. When hubby was getting ready to leave for work this morning, knowing that he only had a few coins in his wallet also, I placed my new-found buck in his bill-fold.

The property taxes are due on my house by the 28th of this month.  I mailed out the $1600 check this morning leaving me only $4 left in my checking account.  In two weeks my school taxes on my home are due. That’s another $2375 due in just sixteen more days.  I only have $1800 saved for that so far. Meaning, I need to hustle up $575 quickly (in addition to my regular monthly bills).  I’m not berating myself for not accomplishing my savings goals anymore.  I have found it near impossible to save money lately.  How can you?  When all the bills keep rising and rising.  Income isn’t.  You try to balance and cajole and re-budget, but eventually, it all catches up to you.  Enter the financial squeeze.

Hubby woke up this morning with the usual complaint: nothing to eat in the house.  Of course there is plenty to eat BUT it’s just not what you want. Rather than pack a lunch, he’s been itching to eat at the new recently re-vamped company cafeteria.  He snubbed his nose to his usuals: peanut butter & jelly, tuna fish, grilled cheese, leftovers.  He had an excuse for every single food item as to why he couldn’t eat them: can’t eat eggs more than twice a week, can’t eat tuna fish more than twice a week, can’t eat peanut butter and jelly more than twice a week, can’t warm up leftovers at work because there is no microwave, can’t eat cold cuts more than once per week, won’t pack an orange because he hates oranges, can’t take the fresh biscotti I baked because the almonds I put in them makes him ill……….the list goes on and on.  He just wanted to eat out in that company cafeteria and spend money that we just didn’t have.

Hubby’s been spending $25 a day just on gas.  Our budget for the month used to be $100.  Now, we’re looking at upwards of $400 a month!  Where’s that extra money to pay those gas bills supposed to come from, I asked?  Of course our food budget is taking a hit because in addition to the shortage of money we have to spend on food, we don’t have the money to buy a wider selection of food choices.  Eating out in the company cafeteria, while nice, isn’t going to help our bottom line.  It’s just going to make our tight budget even tighter.

Throw in the fact that our property taxes have risen.  Insurance for our home has also risen. The other day when I received our insurance policy renewal, it now had a hurricane deductible clause.  If our home is hit by a hurricane, and not even living in the mountains makes us immune anymore, we have to pay a 1% of home value deductible before the insurance company will pay. There also was a rider setting a limit on mold and bacteria claims.  And what was our advantage point for getting less insurance with higher deductibles?  The company rewarded us with higher premiums.  PLUS, now the payments are due on a certain date.  Failure to pay on the certain date guarantees cancellation of your policy retroactively. Yup, that’s right!  Cancellation will go back 30 days and any claims paid in that time period will be considered now null and void.

This morning, as hubby and I were discussing (rather loudly) his lunch choices, or according to him, his non-lunch choices, I opened up my Excel sheet where I record our monthly/daily expenditures.  Right now, we have spent $398 on gas and only $355 on food.  For the first time ever in my 60+ years of life, we were spending more on gas than food! This did not take into account that I have 1.5 days of dog food and snack bones for my pet.  She’s going to need food soon also! With only $4 left in checking, clients who are delinquent in paying, a husband complaining there’s nothing to eat……..and the financial squeeze looming on paying our home taxes (plus personal taxes will be due on April 15th), I had no choice but to transfer $100 out of our precious saving account (that is earmarked to pay the property taxes) and threw hubby out of the house.

I had enough!  I can’t do this anymore!  I can’t balance anything anymore! I don’t think I can make it work anymore.  I can’t take it!  You want to continue to eat fois gras and pretend our lives haven’t changed, then by all means, here’s the money!  Go f**ck yourself!  Go to the company cafeteria.  Eat yourself into oblivion.  I don’t care anymore!…(continued) http://mylifeinfocusblog.wordpress.com/2013/02/27/the-tale-of-a-dollar-and-how-were-being-financially-squeezed/

8 Responses to “Unpaid Newspaper Blogger Says Enough: New No Pay Contract Now Demands All Rights to Photos, Writing Forever”

  1. mylifeinfocusblog March 20, 2013 at 12:55 pm #

    Thanks for the links, Nate.

    Like

    • Nate Thayer March 20, 2013 at 12:59 pm #

      My pleasure Cindi. Let me know how things go for you

      Like

      • mylifeinfocusblog March 20, 2013 at 1:03 pm #

        Will do.
        I wrote to one of my fellow bloggers who refuses to sign the contract also to get in touch with you. He wants to be famous one day and I don’t want him to make any mistakes and mess up his own career.

        Like

  2. Adam March 20, 2013 at 3:13 pm #

    Cindi sums it up quite nicely here;

    “You want to continue to eat fois gras and pretend our lives haven’t changed, then by all means, here’s the money! ”

    In the UK our publishing industry is dominated by shareholder owned large companies who, for the most part, exist to make enough money to pay the shareholders their annual dividends that they expect. This was fine in the 80s and 90s when profits were high and advertisers fell over themselves to pour money over titles. Times have changed but the industry, as a whole, buried it’s head in the sand and hoped the internet and changing consumer reading habits would fade away and return to the status quo. It didn’t and, by the time they realised this, the world had moved on.

    Now the industry still needs to maintain those boom year profit margins and the only way is to cut staff and reduce freelance costs. Newspaper rates haven’t changed in literally decades and large, multi-million pageview sites want free content in exchange for “exposure”.

    Good on you Cindi and your fellow bloggers for not allowing profit-making-shareholder-driven companies to exploit your work (and continue to do so for years to come). Good writers and bloggers will always find a home – every publication lives or dies on the quality of it’s content.

    Like

  3. freelancers March 21, 2013 at 1:42 pm #

    Thank you for this update.

    Like

  4. kimkavin April 12, 2013 at 1:33 pm #

    Nate, thank you for continuing to blog on this topic of unpaid writers in general. As a 10-year veteran of freelance writing and editing (and a 20-year veteran of the publishing industry), I am seeing more and more of these “offers” as well. I greatly appreciate what you are doing by bringing this issue out into the light for the benefit of us all. — Kim Kavin, member, ASJA, Author’s Guild, Boating Writers International, Dog Writers Association of America

    Like

  5. A French Soldier May 4, 2013 at 11:06 pm #

    Mr. Thayer,

    I was approached last week by a staff writer for a regional publication of a well-established media organization.

    Next, I’m chatting with the editor-in-chief and she sends me a contract.

    No pay. All rights to articles vest in the publisher. Publisher may syndicate and re-publish across its organization. I get one re-publication, on approval, in a forum publisher deems non-competitive.

    Here’s the rub: I really don’t need the money. I am a self-employed professional who earns a decent living.

    As I understand the agreement I will write on topics of my choosing, up to a point. I have to give up significant editorial control.

    The potential exposure is sorely tempting; it will create an incentive for me to write more.

    What advice for those of my ilk?

    If I say yes, am I effectively selling professional writers down river, or am I simply exploiting the changing dynamic of publishing in the internet age for an intangible personal gain (and in turn, of course, being exploited) ?

    If both, is it morally wrong to sign the contract?

    Like

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