Guardian lowers freelance photo fees

Guardian News & Media has told freelance photographers they will no longer pay repeat fees for commissioned photos.

Photographer Pete Jenkins has said the move to take away photographers reproduction revenue, due to take effect from the 1 September, was ‘unjust, unfair and immoral”.

Jenkins, vice chairman of the National Union of Journalists photographers’ sub committee, told Press Gazette: “There are lots of photographers who are concerned about this privately but they are worried about their career and reputation and are scared to go public. I’ve taken a huge risk for my own career by sticking my head above the parapet, I’m pretty certain the Guardian will not be seeking my services again after this.”

Jenkins, whose association with the Guardian goes back over 25 years, has said that the move could threaten up to a quarter of a freelance’s annual income.

He said: “My overheads have doubled since 1994 but pay rates remain static or have even gone down. This situation is untenable. If the Guardian wants unlimited rights then they should pay for unlimited rights, instead they are demanding more and offering nothing in return.”

Jenkins added: “The Guardian are setting a dangerous standard. If they get away with this then its basically the last person out can you turn off the lights. It’s another nail in the coffin for the industry. Photographers can’t keep giving things away without getting anything back.

“The Guardian wants to be seen as a caring newspaper that champions worthy causes around the world and at a time when the whole industry is suffering and everyone working in it is suffering, you would hope it would look after its own. Photographers aren’t the cause of the Guardian’s current problems so why are they punishing us? GNM is acting just like any other money-grabbing corporation.”

Freelances for the Guardian learned of the move in a letter informing them that the standard terms for commissions would include “a non-exclusive, perpetual licence to re-use commissioned photography in its products and services without further payment”.

The move followed an announcement in May that GNM would be cutting photographer’s fees in part of a bid to cut editorial costs by £10m by the close of 2009.

In a statement, GNM said: “We are currently operating in unprecedented trading conditions and have been compelled to look at costs across the entire organisation. The changes announced bring us in line with other national press and our terms remain amongst the best.

“This is not a rights grab. The changes announced, in practice, will affect only a very small proportion of contributors. Stock photography and photography commissioned prior to September 1 2009 is unaffected. Furthermore, our standard syndication terms remain unchanged. We seek a non-exclusive licence to re-use new commissions, not the copyright. We have to establish a sustainable cost base for the future.”

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