Wendy M. Grossman (wendyg) Sun 17 Sep 00 14:29
Actually, if you resent publishers' taking all rights, one way to annoy them without costing yourself anything is to encourage others to pirate... (just a nasty subversive thought) wg
Gail Williams (gail) Sun 17 Sep 00 14:54
Interesting perspective. If the artist doesn't get much from the rights anyway... maybe a larger audience is simply more attractive than a small payment.
stupid historical TITS! ON TV!! (fsquared) Sun 17 Sep 00 15:06
I disagree. It's one thing to give your work away yourself, knowingly. It's another thing entirely to have it stolen out from under you.
Neil Gaiman (neilgaiman) Sun 17 Sep 00 19:46
I don't think that 'encourage to pirate' is a selective thing. They won't check and see if it's your copyright or someone else's before they pirate your book.
Neil Gaiman (neilgaiman) Sun 17 Sep 00 20:05
I just whoised wsmf.org and got Registrant: WSMF (WSMF2-DOM) 3334 Se Hawthorne Ave Suite 304 Portland, OR 97214 US Domain Name: WSMF.ORG Administrative Contact, Technical Contact, Zone Contact, Billing Contact: Higgins, Tom (TH8601) tomwhore@INETARENA.COM WSMF 3334 Se Hawthorne Ave Suite 304 Portland , OR 97214 503-230-0072 Record last updated on 22-Jan-1999. Record expires on 22-Jan-2001. Record created on 22-Jan-1999. Database last updated on 17-Sep-2000 04:05:05 EDT. Domain servers in listed order: NS1.INETARENA.COM 18.104.22.168 NS2.INETARENA.COM 22.214.171.124 for the site.
Tiffany Lee Brown (magdalen) Mon 18 Sep 00 04:08
he lives nearby. maybe i'll swing around the corner and pay a visit. or maybe a grenade with a note attached, signed by the offended parties? a simple molotov cocktail?
Neil Gaiman (neilgaiman) Mon 18 Sep 00 13:22
Actually, I think a very polite request to stop doing this would probably work as well. I hope it would, anyway. It's also possible that he doesn't know this stuff is on his website.
Neil Gaiman (neilgaiman) Mon 18 Sep 00 13:56
There. Several e-mails from Tom Higgins this morning: he was mortified that the stuff was up on a website he was responsible for (he didn't know it was there he says, and I believe him), and was making sure it was not only zapped out of existence but also that google et al cleaned out their caches and mirrors.
Martha Soukup (soukup) Mon 18 Sep 00 14:01
Tiffany Lee Brown (magdalen) Mon 18 Sep 00 17:20
stupid historical TITS! ON TV!! (fsquared) Mon 18 Sep 00 21:23
Does my heart good, it does! But that same heart, which is dark and cynical, wonders if he'd have been quite as abashed and quick to cooperate if a slightly less well-known writer made the same request.
Farai N. Chideya (zimby) Mon 18 Sep 00 22:43
True that. Maybe. The amazing thing about our position in time regarding rights is that we have none, or many. The net is still really the wild west in terms of rights and clearances, where you can get away with abuses of fair use you NEVER would in print. (Most people on the WELL don't post full articles from other sources but it happens on message boards ever day.) Basically, as one might expect, smaller "underground" sites are held to a more lax standard re: rights than bigger corporate sites when it comes to poaching material outright. A lot of teeny sites basically sprinkle themsleves with fairy dust, poach from their favorite authors/musicians/artists, and hope for the best. And usually it works--mainly because the marginal rate of return for the artist in terms of suing/shutting down the site is so low and some of the art and craft that goes into the smallest sites is so beautiful. (Unlike most of the gak-worthy processed-cheese corporate sites...) Big print publishers and sites: well, they basically tell you they're going to screw you up front. They make you sign a really really stringent contract and then you're hogtied concerning your e-rights. In the words of Yaz, "It doesn't have to be like that." I have been running my small site, PopandPolitics, for five years. At certain points it has been pretty much a home page. (Now, thank goodness, I have lots of interesting contributors and more on the way.) But somewhere along the way I figured out I would have nothing to put on the site if I didn't keep the rights to my own work. So I started fighting for it. Basic scenario: Farai gets contract. Contract says: "We own your rights in perpetuity throughout the known universe." Farai says: #&%@$!& Farai ponders. Farai calls editor; editor says call legal; legal says this is the way it's always done; Farai says "I wrote the damn story; I scratched out this clause in the contract; I'm faxing it to you right now; pay me!" That is the basic "story written, contract altered after story is written" scenario. Doesn't involve shouting, just firmness. If the negotiations take place before you write the story, you can do some interesting stuff. Let them take e-rights...for a limited term. One month. Three months. A year. Vary the rate they have to pay for how long they have your article online. Think about the possible resale value of your feature. Make THEM think about it...
Wendy M. Grossman (wendyg) Tue 19 Sep 00 14:10
OK, I have a question. How often do the other freelances here ask for raises? (Having just gotten one from one of the magazines I write for.) wg
Linda Castellani (castle) Tue 19 Sep 00 16:19
Did you ask for the raise?
stupid historical TITS! ON TV!! (fsquared) Tue 19 Sep 00 17:15
Farai, when you say this: "If the negotiations take place before you write the story, you can do some interesting stuff. Let them take e-rights...for a limited term. One month. Three months. A year. Vary the rate they have to pay for how long they have your article online. Think about the possible resale value of your feature. Make THEM think about it..." I think you're forgetting (in all innocence) that we aren't all Farai! Magazines *want* you. You're a *name.* You can get away with that. The rest of us are often told, "This contract is a done deal. Take it or leave it."
Farai N. Chideya (zimby) Tue 19 Sep 00 20:13
That's a good point. Some of us have more leverage than others. I'm not sure I've got super leverage--I get things turned down, chopped up, paid late (on threat of legal action)--but I know I have more than some. Here's what I will say: 1) I started tinkering with my contracts when I probably had less leverage than I do now, and I still got them altered. 2) There is a certain "tipping point" philosophy to this, where if enough of us stand on one side of the teeter-totter, the balance will shift. So perhaps I do have a bit more leverage. If writers with more leverage use that to gain back their e-rights, or consciously sell them instead of giving them away, then that could (caveat) shift the balance for all. Same thing with asking for more money. Here I will step out on a big shaky branch and say one reason why the freelance writing profession pays poorly is because it has become a pink collar ghetto, dominated by women who don't ask for what they're worth and women and men who don't pay what female writers are worth. We have to overcome our shyness about money and start bargaining up, incrementally.
Farai N. Chideya (zimby) Tue 19 Sep 00 20:16
Also Martha's point about magazines being a huge part of popular entertainment in the past, now less so resonates. Television/film has become the default popular entertainment, and the biggest star and moneymaker. No surprise that our biggest authors are ones whose books are made into movies.
Martha Soukup (soukup) Tue 19 Sep 00 20:41
Have a taxi driver ask you what you do. Tell him you write. Have him ask, "Any movies?" Repeat 200 times.
stupid historical TITS! ON TV!! (fsquared) Tue 19 Sep 00 20:59
Oh, I totally agree with you about needing to head for the tipping point. I wish there was a way to persuade all eager new writers not to settle for pennies just to get their names in print. (And yeah, when I tell strangers that I'm a writer, they all assume I'm working on a novel.) So here's my question: how do we writers get the public to care about what's happening in our business -- to care that our pay, in real dollars, is steadily declining and that lots of us are taking on corporate side gigs to make ends meet? How do we get the public to care that publishers aren't willing to pay for quality work? Is anyone reading who's a member of the non-writerly public interested in telling us what would make you care?
Martha Soukup (soukup) Tue 19 Sep 00 22:16
Yeah, if they aren't asking about movies, they assume it's a novel. They don't know you make maybe $6000 for a first novel when they ask that.
Wendy M. Grossman (wendyg) Wed 20 Sep 00 02:15
castle: yes, I asked for the raise. It's been my policy since day 1 to ask for raises every 12-18 months. I don't make it an I-won't-write-for-you-if- OI-don't-get-it thing, but I do ask, and I do persist in asking. Over here, where publications really do have somewhat standard rates, the success rate is variable, but I like to think I've benefited other freelances by keeping a steady upward pressure on even the ones that really do have a standard rate. But it's only this year for the first time that someone is paying me an amount I actually find embarrassing. wg
Neil Glazer (neil-glazer) Wed 20 Sep 00 12:53
Having just negotiated a freelance magazine contract for my wife (a first time writer), I'm finding this discussion really interesting. Perhaps it was just that they wanted this particular article by this particular person at this particular time, but every time I pushed them on a contractual provision -- lo and behold, they would fax over yet another "form" contract, with an improvement over the last one. For example, I told them that while I had never negotiated this kind of contract before, I thought the terminology "all rights throughout the universe" was a tad extreme and unacceptible. The next day, they faxed over a different form contract with slightly less extreme language. Several rounds later, we had what we wanted -- they got the first serial rights and nothing more. And there's a rider specifying what they have to pay for "extras" (if the arise). I take it by the comments here that this was highly unusual. Though it was all so easy (I've spent days in negotiations with lawyers over stupid sentences in hundred-page agreements), that I just assumed that they'll try to get what they can, and give in when needed to get the article. Perhaps if writers were able to organize better, and negotiate standard provisions, things might improve. But to do so, there would have to be a pretty significant number of writers on-board, because the power of such an effort would be in the power to boycott any magazines that refused to change things. This goes just as much for how much they pay as it does for other contractual provisions. So long as magazine x has dozens of writers who meet its standards willing to sell on the magazine's terms, there's no reason on earth for the magazine to change the way it does business. But if a significant number of writers were to say to the magazines, here's a new form contract, and this is the one we want you to use from now on and we won't sell articles to anyone who doesn't use it -- well, that's how these things change (that, and litigation, which is far messier, costlier, time consuming, and fraught with risk).
Fawn Fitter (fsquared) Wed 20 Sep 00 17:02
It is also very, very difficult to create a trade union of independent contractors. The NWU does what it can, but contractors can't bargain collectively.
Neil Gaiman (neilgaiman) Wed 20 Sep 00 20:34
Neil -- well, in the UK you have the Society of Authors which has mostly done that. When I was a magazine journalist all one would ever sell were "first world rights" and no-one ever expected anything else.
Wendy M. Grossman (wendyg) Thu 21 Sep 00 12:43
When was that? My guess would be that rights sale had more to do with collective bargainin g by the NUJ, which *does* have a freelance branch and published rates, than anything else. Things have changed dramatically over the last decade, with publishers demanding, stealing, or occasionally temporarily paying for all rights. wg
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