USA Today Squeezes Freelancers Over Usage Rights

USA Today has increased its day rate for freelancers in a new contract — but with a catch. In return for the $100 increase, the newspaper now demands the right to use freelance photos wherever it wants, forever. That includes on the USA Today Web site and in other Gannett publications.

Photo District News reports:

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…

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.”…

Though the new contract is considered a thinly veiled “rights grab” by many photographers, it shouldn’t come as a surprise with the current hemorrhaging in traditional media, particularly among newspapers. In an unrelated but telling report, the AP points out that with Tribune Co. going private, Gannett is the last publicly traded, non-family-controlled newspaper company left standing.

Squeezing freelance photographers ultimately won’t solve newspaper industry woes, of course. The larger question is, Will anything?

[tags]freelance photography, USA Today, usage rights, photojournalism[/tags]

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