318 FREELANCE CONTRIBUTORS SUE BOSTON GLOBE
June 14, 2000
Freelance writers, illustrators, and photographers of the Boston Globe have
filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of one thousand freelancers, seeking
an injunction in Massachusetts Superior Court against the Globe's unfair and
deceptive trade practices.
The lawsuit was filed after the Globe attempted to coerce writers,
illustrators and photographers into signing an unfair contract which demands
all rights in all mediums to all past, present, and future creative works by
freelance contributors. The Globe informed freelancers that they would
never be hired again unless they agreed to the paper's demands, which
include granting the Globe rights to re-publish in all mediumsincluding the
Internetarticles, photographs and illustrations that were previously sold to
the paper, for no additional compensation.
The legal action, Marx et. al. v. The Globe Newspaper Co., is supported by
three organizations representing freelancers, on behalf of their members who
contribute to the Globe: The National Writers Union, Local 1981 of the
International Union, UAW; the Graphic Artists Guild, Local 3030 of the
International Union, UAW; and the American Society of Media Photographers
"The last thing we need is more sweatshops in cyberspace," said Elizabeth
Bunn, Vice President of the International Union, UAW, and director of its
Technical, Office and Professional (TOP) Department. "The power of new
technology should be harnessed to empower creative workers, not used as a
club to re-create 'my-way-or-the-highway'-style working conditions,
reminiscent of the 19th century."
"We're not going to stand by while irresponsible publishers impose
non-negotiable, retroactive agreements on creators," said Richard Weisgrau,
executive director of ASMP. "We're confident that the Massachusetts courts
will put a stop to this kind of egregious behavior."
The Globe is attempting a "brazenly deceptive strategy to grab our rights
for decades of work in the past for nothing, and for no specified
compensation in the future," according to plaintiff Bill Marx, a book critic
for the Globe and a member of UAW Local 1981. "The Globe wants to make
available under their name, for their exclusive use and profit, the
intellectual property owned by freelancers on the Globe's web site,
boston.com. across the Internet."
"The Globe claims I will be able to retain a copyright interest in my work,"
said photographer Greg Mironchuk, an ASMP member, who is another of the
named plaintiffs. "But what good is that if they force me to give to them
the right to take everything I have given them over the years I have worked
and allow them to distribute and sell it over the Internet and elsewhere
The lawsuit, citing Massachusetts laws that prohibit deceptive and coercive
business practices, seeks an injunction to strike down the Globe's contract
demands, and to nullify the contract for those who felt coerced to sign it,
for fear of losing their position with the Globe.
The Globe's coercive and deceptive business practices "would merit a
Spotlight Team expose, if these actions were committed by any other company
than the Globe itself," said Ira Sills, a Boston labor and employment
attorney who is representing Globe freelancers. "We doubt the paper will
devote much coverage to its own misbehavior, but the state of Massachusetts
has laws which prohibit this kind of unconscionable behavior. We intend to
The National Writers Union recently prevailed against the Globeís parent
company in a landmark lawsuit, Tasini vs. The New York Times, which
established work contributed by freelancers cannot be re-used,
electronically or by other means, by a publisher without the consent of the
creator. The Times and other publishers, including the Globe, now face
uncertain financial liabilities because they routinely violated copyright
law by re-selling electronic versions of articles contributed by freelancers
without their consent.