‘USA Today’ Demands More Usage Rights From Freelance Photogs

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By: Daryl Lang/PDN Online

A new USA Today contract increases the day rate for freelance photographers by $100, but in return demands the right to use photos in any medium forever, including USAToday.com and any other Gannett publication.

The action reflects a scramble among newspaper and magazine companies to make their content available in electronic formats, including Web sites and mobile devices. But as part of the change, Gannett is asking freelancers to green-light the use of their images in any of the 90 newspapers, 23 TV stations, 130 Web sites and hundreds of other publications the publishing giant owns.

“Our new agreement reflects the multiplatform world,” says Frank Folwell, the deputy managing editor who oversees photography and graphics at USA Today. “Newspaper companies are media companies now. We have to proceed for the future. … We tried to put together an agreement as fairly as we could.”

Among the publishers who have made similar changes to their contributor contracts this year is Nielsen Business Media, owner of PDN.

Some photographers have already responded sourly to the USA Today contract. “I would not sign it,” says Mark Loundy, a photojournalist and multimedia editor who has seen both the old and new contracts. He says USA Today is taking a “major step backwards,” adding, “The publishing industry wants the control they get with full time staffers without giving them job security or benefits.”

Photographers who debated the new contract on a SportsShooter.com message board weighed the downside of a “rights grab” against the upside of the improved day rate, which compares favorably to other newspapers.

However, because of a reduction in other fees, the new day rate may be less of a benefit than it seems.

The new contract, which went into effect April 1, pays a day rate of $375, up from $275. The old contract also paid a $100 transmission fee for up to six digital images plus $10 for each additional image, but that fee has been reduced to a flat $25 in the new contract.

Under the old terms, USA Today paid freelancers an extra $100 when their photos ran on USAToday.com and between $50 and $200 each time a photo was reprinted in the newspaper. The new contract pays no extra fees for online use or print reuse.

As before, freelancers retain the copyrights to their photos and can license them to someone else after a period of exclusivity. The old contract asked for 60 days of exclusivity while the new contract lowers that period to 30 days.

Here is the most significant language added to the new contract for assigned freelance photography:

“You grant USA TODAY, Gannett Co., Inc., and their respective affiliated companies and licensees the right to reproduce, distribute, display, alter, retouch, adapt, modify, transmit, edit, crop and otherwise use and reuse the Works for any purpose and in any manner or medium throughout the world in perpetuity without additional compensation in connection with any publication, website, television station broadcast, or other product or service offered, operated and/or owned by a Gannett Entity. For the purposes of this Agreement, a ‘Gannett Entity’ means Gannett Co. Inc., USA TODAY, and their respective subsidiaries, affiliates, and affiliated companies, including, but not limited to, their publications, websites and television stations.”

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