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Guild takes Canwest to task on new freelance contracts

The Canadian Media Guild has sent an 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. In it, CMG president Lise Lareau and Freelance Branch president Don Genova call on Canwest to show more respect for the writers who create a significant percentage of the content in Canadian newspapers. A copy of the letter was also sent to Canwest Publishing in Toronto.

In recent years, Canadian newspapers and other media outlets have taken a more aggressive approach in their dealings with freelance content creators. The latest Canwest basic contract goes so far as to seek to buy “moral rights” in freelancers’ work.

Moral rights are generally defined as the right to have the author’s name attached to a work, and to maintain the integrity of the work. For creative people, it’s the most fundamental right there is. By way of example, society would be scandalized if someone bought Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and then immediately claimed not only ownership, but authorship. For that matter, it is the concept of moral rights that makes us think of da Vinci as the creator of the Mona Lisa, regardless of who owns the painting. Canwest and other media organizations want to take these rights away.

Freelance content creators tend to be vulnerable in Canada, since most labour legislation considers them independent contractors, and therefore unable to bargain collectively. That makes them easy targets for engagers. The Guild continues to fight for recognition of freelancers’ rights, and we will continue to provide advice and guidance to freelancers as they deal with companies like Canwest.

Click here to read the CMG’s letter to the Citizen.

Click here to see a PDF scan of a similar contract at Montreal’s The Gazette.

Click here to read the February 15 reply from the Citizen.

For more information, contact Keith Maskell (keith@cmg.ca) at 416-591-5333 or 1-800-465-4149.

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