The joke used to be that, if all the rock writers went on strike, no one would notice. In the next week or so, however, this may be put to the test.
“The following statement has been agreed by representatives of 200 freelance music journalists. Bauer music magazines Kerrang!, Mojo and Q are in a stand-off with 200 freelance writers and photographers over the company’s attempt to impose a copyright-grabbing contract. This comes just eight weeks after Mojo became the UK’s best-selling music magazine in ABCs which, according to Bauer UK chief executive Paul Keenan, proved that “investing in editorial content is a winning strategy”. Bauer, a German-owned publisher which bought the music magazines and other consumer titles from Emap in December 2007, is seeking to impose new, draconian contracts on all contributors to Kerrang!, MOJO and Q. These contracts remove copyright and all financial, legal and moral rights from freelance writers and photographers while simultaneously requiring that the freelances provide Bauer with an unlimited lifetime financial indemnity in the event of legal action arising from their work. Among various other restrictive impositions, the contract further grants Bauer the right to sell stories or photos to whomever they wish without reference to the writers, photographers or the subjects of the work – and it even presses freelances to acquire licenses from their subjects for the company to use their image for its own profit as and when it wishes. In a covering letter delivered with the contracts, Bauer issues an ultimatum: after April 16, if the contributors do not sign, they will no longer be commissioned.”
I have it easy in this matter, having not written anything substantial for Mojo in quite a while. I believe I’ve fallen from favor in those quarters and thus, without jeopardizing any near-future income, I can happily tell Bauer, “hell no, I don’t need your stinking contract. Fuck you and the Hanoverian you rode in on.” If I come up with a story their editors really want, I will negotiate my own deal and they will never ever get any of my raw research material, something else that Bauer has been contractually demanding.
But, you ask, as a true righteous Doc40 reader, how can I aid this worthy cause, even if I don’t give a damn about copyrights and residuals? I suppose, if they force the contract and the intimidated cut and run, you could stop reading the magazines. Not just as a political gesture, though. The quality will plummet. In such an atmosphere of drudgery, and corporate contempt for content, the writers who remain will not go the extra mile. No one is going to do some exhaustingly researched, months-of-work, story on (say) Syd Barrett, just to hand the whole package over to Bauer suits who don’t know what to do with it anyway. By pulling this legal larceny, Bauer revealed the basic slash-and-burn attitude of too many in the print industry. They only see their magazines as advertising platforms. In an infinity changing media world, their only strategy is to cut the cost of content. Ultimately it’s an insult to the reader. They’d print drivel by interns and press-kit photos if they thought they can get away with. The trouble is that, right now, they think they can.
The secret word is Solidarity