Shirley Blair, the fiction editor of People's Friend, has sent me the following guest post as a direct response to our concerns about the new DC Thomson contracts.
Thanks, WomagWriter, for giving us this opportunity to address the concerns that have been expressed about our new contributor terms. We’ve always had the utmost respect for all of our contributors, and we’re concerned to hear of such widespread unease.
The first point I’d like to make is that this is NOT a “rights grab”. The copyright remains with you, the writers (and illustrators, photographers, feature writers, etc). We have the exclusive right to first publication; this was always the case under FBSR. After that the original work is yours to reuse or sell on in any way you choose, as before. The difference is that the new agreements give us the right to reuse material without further payment. But this does not prevent you, the author, from also reusing it any way you wish. And the terms also make it clear that we cannot sell the material to a third party without paying you a royalty.
As a company we have to keep pace with developments in the world of publishing and with what our competitors are doing. If we don’t, we risk jeopardising the long-term future of our titles. Our legal department decided that it was necessary to develop new contributor terms that apply right across our publishing business and are relevant to magazines, newspapers and digital publishing.
Yes, there is a fair amount of legal “jargon” involved, but there has to be as this is a legal document – it has to be watertight in the best interests of all parties. And we do care about the interests of all parties – we have spent months working on the terms and wording to ensure fairness to all involved.
The wording WomagWriter quoted for Clause 8 actually comes from an earlier draft of the agreement. This section has now been amended to make clear that first refusal to publish a collection of works is “not to be unreasonably delayed” and that the new contractual terms to be agreed in the event of such a collection would include additional payment.
The other area that seems to be causing concern is Joint Contributions. In fact it’s always been the case that the copyright of the edited work belonged jointly to DC Thomson and the author and rights to reuse the published work could not be granted to any other publisher without the agreement of both parties. The author is at liberty to sell or reuse the original work only. We’ve known for some time that this breach of copyright was occurring, and it’s actually one of the reasons why it has become necessary to issue new contracts to all our contributors. We have a duty to protect the time and expertise that our editorial teams invest in our publications.
If there’s one message I want to get across today it’s to reassure everyone who writes for us that we are the same people we have always been. We cherish the good relationships we have nurtured over many years, and we hope that any author who has queries or concerns about the new contracts will contact us so we can put their minds at ease. Just talk to us! To date over 100 contributors have signed the new agreements; many of those approached us first with their questions, and we were happy to work through their issues with them. This doesn’t mean the contracts are negotiable; they’re not. And sadly, we can’t buy any new material from an author who refuses to sign the new terms. But every author is, of course, free to choose not to submit material to us if they prefer not to under the new terms.
Again, thanks to WomagWriter for allowing us this guest spot – it’s very much appreciated.
Thanks, Shirley. If you have further queries about the contract, either contact the magazine editors directly, or post a comment here. You may comment anonymously if you prefer, but please be polite and professional at all times.
In my mind at least, this has really helped clarify the new contract, as well as explaining the reasons behind it. I hope it's helped everyone else, too.