04 November 2004

Guild protests CanWest's 'abusive' freelancer contract

Writers' groups denounce media conglomerate
for 'using its clout to gang up on the little guy'

Canadian Media Guild | TNG Canada Local 30213

The Canadian Media Guild is joining a chorus of writers’ groups in denouncing a new contract CanWest Global Communications Corp. is imposing on its freelance writers.

Photo: Lise Lareau
CanWest News Service
Freelance Contract

News Release (PDF)
PWAC condemns new CanWest Global contract

News Release
The Writers' Union of Canada denounces CanWest contract as 'moral theft'

The new contract forces freelancers to waive their copyright and other “moral rights” so CanWest can re-use their material in any way in its newspapers, Internet sites and television stations, says Lise Lareau, president of the Canadian Media Guild, which represents 6,000 media employees across the country and has a freelance branch of about 600 members.

The CMG is a Local of TNG Canada, which represents hundreds of employees at CanWest daily newspapers across the country. It is among several groups, including the Periodical Writers Association of Canada (PWAC), calling on CanWest to drop the proposed contract.

“The level of concentration of media ownership in Canada means there are only a handful of media owners left, and this one is using its clout to gang up on the little guy,” says Lareau. “It’s pushing the limit on copyright law, labour law and individual writers’ ability to make a living.”

PWAC is also urging all independent writers to refuse to sign the contract. "The Copyright Act clearly states what we write belongs to us," says president Liz Warwick. "It's not reasonable to ask us to give our work away for nothing."

Under terms of the new contract, CanWest is seeking the right to “exclusively use and exploit the Content in any manner and in any and all media, whether now known or hereafter devised, throughout the universe, in perpetuity.”

The contract also stipulates that the freelancer must waive all “moral rights” in and to the Content, meaning that it can be manipulated in any way CanWest sees fit, without authorization by the person whose name will appear on the work. “This is an aggressive and abusive approach to people who write Canada’s stories,” says Lareau.

Because some freelance work is also done by employees at some newspapers, the Guild is also troubled by the contract’s attempt to infringe on labour rights. The contract specifically states that freelancers who sign it “are not subject to any union or collective bargaining agreement."