Guild takes Canwest to task on new freelance contracts

    TORONTO, Feb. 13 /CNW/ - The Canadian Media Guild has sent the following
open letter to the executive editor of the Ottawa Citizen, which is the latest
Canwest paper to implement a new blanket contract for freelance writers.

    Graham N. Green
    Executive Editor
    Ottawa Citizen

    Mr. Green:

    We note with alarm that the Citizen is proposing a new boilerplate
contract to freelancers - a contract that makes exaggerated demands upon
writers who seek to earn a living from their work.
    The most troubling demand is that freelance authors waive their moral
rights in the work they provide. Moral rights give the author creative
ownership over their work and ensure they get credit when that work is used or
re-used. It is the most fundamental right a writer has, and it is simply
unacceptable to expect freelancers to surrender it outright. A media
organization does not need to hold moral rights to be able to subject a piece
to the normal editing process. In our view, the only reason a company would
need to hold the moral rights would be to have the unfettered right to modify
an item beyond its original meaning. Surely this is not the Citizen's aim.
    It is clear that the contract seeks to characterize these authors as
non-employees of the newspaper. At the same time, though, the contract is
designed to give the company the same rights to the material as if the
freelancer were an employee - including the right to generate further profit
for Citizen owner Canwest by making the items available via the Canwest News
Service. In other words, this contract seeks to give the Citizen and Canwest
all of the rights of an employer, while denying these writers any of the
corresponding rights as an employee.
    A number of freelancers have approached the Canadian Media Guild with
significant concerns about the contract. We are recommending strongly that
freelancers reject this unnecessary grab at their rights, and that they
propose more balanced contract terms. We hope and expect that you will accept
any reasonable counterproposal made by freelance writers, and furthermore that
you will modify your boilerplate language so as to show a modicum of respect
for freelancers. By not doing so, you run the risk of losing many of the
people who contribute so much to the content of your newspaper.


    Don Genova
    Freelance Branch President
    Lise Lareau
    National President

For further information:

For further information: visit or contact Keith Maskell,, at (416) 591-5333 or 1-800-465-4149

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