News / 04.02.2010

Danish freelancers reject Aller’s demand

Only three years ago, in January 2007, Danish publisher Aller Press, now called Aller Media, sent contracts to the hundreds of freelancers who work for the publisher. The demand was that freelancers should grant Aller broadly speaking all reproduction rights – without receiving anything in return. The response from freelancers was an unambiguous "no" – and widespread frustration at being treated so shabbily by a company that many of them had worked for loyally for many years.

DJ immediately entered into negotiations with Aller in order to secure a general agreement for freelancers. After the negotiations broke down DJ gave notice of a freelance blockade against Aller and the company responded by bringing the matter before the Industrial Court. Aller claimed that DJ was not entitled to give notice of a blockade on behalf of freelancers. In the late summer of 2007 the Industrial Court found that DJ was entitled to use such means on behalf of freelancers.

DJ and Aller entered into a collective freelance agreement immediately afterwards. On the one hand, the agreement gave Aller extensive rights to reuse/resell freelancers' material. On the other, minimum rates were agreed for photographs and Aller agreed to pay freelancers an additional fee for some reuse of material outside Aller Press.

But the situation has now taken a turn for the worse again.

Aller Media has once again forwarded a non-negotiated contract to many of its freelancers. And once again, the contract requires freelancers to transfer broadly speaking all reproduction rights to Aller. In DJ's opinion this is a clear breach of the collective freelance agreement so the union has taken arbitration proceedings against Aller. At the same time DJ called on Aller to cease forwarding the disputed contracts until the disagreement has been settled. Aller refused to comply.

In addition the collective freelance agreement expires on 28 February 2010. DJ has therefore begun negotiations to establish a new agreement with Aller. The union will give Aller notice of a freelance blockade to strengthen its negotiating position. The blockade will come into effect on 1 March if a new, satisfactory agreement has not been reached.

If the blockade comes into effect, DJ will offer compensation to members who can document income from Aller Media for freelance work performed on terms similar to those for wage-earners.

The heart of the matter
The central aspect of the disagreement between Aller and the freelancers is the extent of the reproduction rights Aller will be entitled to in connection with freelancers' material. And how much – or how little – Aller will pay for these rights. Another important aspect is that Aller refuses to pay freelance photographers the minimum rate for their photos that was otherwise secured by the collective freelance agreement.

The collective freelance agreement from 2007 entitled Aller to use freelance material in advance within the Aller Group. But the agreement was that Aller should pay freelancers an additional fee when their material was used outside Aller Media in Denmark. And, under the agreement, Aller was obliged to pay photographers an additional fee after 30 days from the first publication of their photos.

Aller is apparently refusing to pay this additional fee any longer. Aller's contract demands all reproduction rights without additional payment. And the contract does not include the minimum fee for photos guaranteed in the collective freelance agreement.

Last, but not least, Aller's contract contains the demand that freelancers indemnify Aller against any responsibility whatsover that could be connected with Aller's use of their material. This means that the individual freelancer runs a considerable risk of being held liable for damages without having any influence on to whom and for which purpose Aller sells his or her material.

For further information, see the DJ website Aller special pages.

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