Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Do journalists retain rights to their work?

The other day I met Tom Osanjo, a former colleague and friend, and we got into a discussion about the rights that a writer retains.

The issue we were debating was whether journalists retain any rights to the material they publish. There are two schools of thought; there are those who think that once you have written, thats it, the rights shift to the publisher.

Another school of thought holds that the journalist holds the rights and if the publisher wants to use the story or photo again, then they must pay again or something like that.

James, winner of the CNN sports journalist of the year in 2007 gave us his experience; how the organizers of the CNN awards made him sign an agreement that allowed then to redistribute the pictures.

James' argument was that if the rights are retained by the media house, then CNN would have asked the media house for permission to use. That supported the argument that the rights are retained by the writer.

That argument seemed to have preempted a debate that I would have a week later.

Today I found myself weathering a storm in a tea cup.

Sometimes last year, I participated in online discussions about the fiber optic cable and so many other attendant issues. Some of the issues were very technical while others were social-economic.

In writing an article, I went to some old drafts of the daily summaries that I had done and used the material that was summarized for the final report.

The agreement with the organizers was that I still retained rights to the material and was free to use the material so long as it was advancing the wider goals of the ICT sector.

As a journalist, the right to use materials is of paramount importance. The organization and the author did not have any problem. Nevertheless, the article rightly credited the author and the organization.

Forget about my incident, the question I asked was; what happens in those cases when somebody asks you to do a speech on their behalf, do you still retain the rights to the contents of the speech or not?

It got me thinking...... I think I still retain the rights but if someone paid me to do the speech, then the rights go to them.

But still....I think there is much to be debated....


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