Agreement on journalists' copyright in digital media reached after years of disputes

A new collective agreement on copyright, signed in April 1997, gives Swedish journalists control over the re-use of work created in the course of their employment.

On 30 April 1997 theSwedish Union of Journalists (SJF) and the Swedish Publishers' Association (TU) reached agreement on employed journalists' author's rights in digital media.

The tussle between the journalists and publishers has been going on since the end of the 1970s, when SJF called for negotiations on new rules on authors' rights in the collective agreement for journalists employed in the daily and weekly press - rules that would give writers and photographers control over the further use of works that they had produced for the papers and magazines. TU however, wanted to keep the old rules, according to which the authors' economic rights were transferred to the employers without any limitations.

In 1981, the journalists went on strike to force the publishers to the negotiation table. With the assistance of a mediator, SJF and TU entered into a collective agreement that partly met the interests of the journalists, but it soon became apparent that they disagreed on the contents of the settlement. In the years that followed SJF brought several cases to court regarding its interpretation. TU for its part called on the legislators without success to modify the Copyright Act so that all rights to literary and artistic works created in the course of employment should belong to the employer.

At the beginning of the 1990s, an increasing number of publishers wanted to give out Internet versions of their publications and to re-use texts and photos in different kinds of digital media. The need for a settlement on the copyright issues became acute.

According to the new collective agreement, employers may utilise their employees' works in both printed and in digital form in their own businesses with certain limitations. In return every worker will receive a symbolic sum (SEK 1,200 for 1997) in addition to his or her normal wage.

If the employer wants to re-use works from one or a few of its employees for compiling books, off-prints, CD-ROM or other kinds of copies it must procure the approval of the authors concerned. The same applies if it wants to use journalistic works in radio or television broadcasts, in theatre or film, or for digital uses for which nobody is legally responsible according to the Acts on the freedom of the press and freedom of expression. In certain conditions the journalists themselves can republish their own material.

If the employer wants to transfer the rights to works created by journalists to a third party he or she must first obtain the approval of the authors or (sometimes) the local union.

The effect of all these provisions is that the authors concerned can claim extra payment for further use of their material.

The agreement also states that the journalists' droit moralmust not be infringed.

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