Canadian Magazine Industry News
7 March 2013,     TORONTO
Writers' rights: TC Media and the Atlantic raise ire
Transcontinental Media's new contributor agreement is drawing negative feedback from the freelance writing and photography community in Canada.

The new contracts give TC Media full copyright, worldwide and in perpetuity across all its brands, and require a waiver of moral rights so that the work can be altered and adapted.

"The contract terms would allow the publisher to take a writer's story, change it in any way they want and either take the writer's name off or, what is perhaps worse, leave it on," said Don Genova, president of the Canadian Media Guild's freelance branch, in a release. "And in exchange for all these rights? The publisher will pay the same old low rates. This is truly outrageous."

TC Media's last contract update in 2009, which extended the publisher's copyright across a title's different platforms — website, digital edition, promotion and mobile applications — but not to other brands, prompted a boycott from 14 Canadian writer's groups.

  And in exchange for all these rights? The publisher will pay the same old low rates. This is truly outrageous."
- Don Genova
Speaking with theStoryBoard.ca, TC Media's Susan Antonacci said the new contract addresses the new multi-platform media environment. "So much has happened, even since 2009 when we had our last agreement. Tablets and apps didn't exist, they weren't commercialized in 2009. The iPad was only launched in April 2010. There've been so many changes in the industry and the way we provide content that it was absolutely necessary that we look at making these changes," said Antonacci, executive director of brand development for TC Media consumer brands.

Antonacci told Story Board the publisher's requirement for worldwide rights was a "safety net" anticipating changes in the cross-media landscape, but that the instances in which content would be shared with another brand would be rare. As for the moral rights waiver, which enables TC Media to alter work as it sees fit, Antonacci said it was needed to allow content to be adapted for a title's different digital platforms and delivery channels.

The Canadian Media Guild is calling for writers and photographers to join forces in putting pressure on the company to reconsider the new agreement. For more info, visit the CMG website. The Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union (CEP) and its freelance local, the Canadian Freelance Union (CFU), are also standing in opposition.

Meanwhile, across the border, the Atlantic found itself at the centre of the freelance debate after journalist Nate Thayer posted an email exchange with an Atlantic editor. The editor offered to publish a version of a story Thayer had written for NKNews.org., but said the Atlantic wasn't able to pay.

The post kicked off a large viral debate across social media and in Thayer's comments section, prompting an apology from Atlantic editor-in-chief James Bennet for causing offence.

Senior editor Alexis C. Madrigal also responded, with 4,000 words, including these:

"So, yeah, the economics of our business are terrible in some ways. And like everything else, the worst of it falls on the workers, the people making the widgets, doing the journalism, making the beds. The money gets sucked upwards and the work gets pushed down. . .the biz ain't what it used to be, but then again, for most people, it never really was. And, to you Mr. Thayer, all I can say is I wish I had a better answer."

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