Newspaper and magazine publisher Archant, with profits of over £2.6 million, has announced a major new initiative aimed at encouraging its readers to submit photos for publication and syndication. Their iwitness24 scheme is described as giving “users the chance to share their news, photos and videos”, and appears to be offering contributors the opportunity to profit from an international syndication scheme.
However, it’s true purpose can be deduced from the following paragraph in the scheme’s Terms and Conditions:
“By submitting any material to Archant, You automatically grant Archant the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use, reproduce, modify, edit, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such material (in whole or part) worldwide and/or to incorporate it in other works in any form, media, or technology now known or later developed for the full term of any rights that may exist in such content.”
This is clearly an attempt to cut costs at the company’s four daily and 75 weekly titles by replacing the work of professional photographers and videographers, including a number who are members of this branch, with that of unpaid readers, whose ‘shared’ contributions will be used free of charge by Archant.
All of this is part of a much wider trend towards amateurising lens journalism, driven by publishers’ and broadcasters’ quest for free or almost-free imagery, via copyright grabs or unfair licensing. In Archant’s case, iwitness24 includes a moral rights grab that, together with the sidelining of NUJ lens-based journalists working within a professional code of conduct, will also debase ethical standards.
The LPB deplores this move, which will inevitably lead to a further erosion of the living standards of our members, but the London Photographers’ Branch believes there is much that can be done in defending professional standards among working photographers. The LPB committee understands very well that achieving agreements, over rates of pay, with various media managements is a powerful way of sustaining the quality of the work we do.
Larry Herman & Philip Wolmuth
(On behalf of the LPB Committee)