It looks like being a lean year for the Fairfax stable of contributor journalists. Apparently tiring of seeing freelance bylines appearing in various titles (a tactic pursued by self-employed writers presumably in the interests of Making A Living), Fairfax has proposed a new contributor agreement, one which severely restricts any writer’s ability to work between Fairfax titles and any other of a pretty comprehensive range of Australian publishers.

Do more than three stories in any given six month period for Fairfax, and that money will have to see you through.

According to one lawyer in the field, the agreement “is almost nonsensical”, in particular, the section relating to “Other Work” is “a restraint of trade and almost entirely unenforceable”.

Then there are the rights to republication also demanded.

According to one outraged and soon to be impoverished freelancer: “The gist of it is that Fairfax gets a worldwide irrevocable exclusive licence to reproduce the story (i.e: no restriction on which publication they reproduce it in), the contributor can only licence reproduction of story to a third party outside of Australia and New Zealand.”

“Within Australia, we can’t licence a story to a long list of major media organisations, without Fairfax permission, even after it has been published or rejected by Fairfax. (List includes Newscorp, Telstra, PBL, ninemsn, Seven Network, Yahoo, WAN, ACP, APN and Time Inc) and most disturbingly, anyone who writes more than three pieces for a Fairfax publication in SIX months, is not allowed to submit other stories to the same long list of companies in point two.”

Here’s the nitty gritty from the document:

1. FAIRFAX WORK
1.1 By accepting this agreement or otherwise submitting content (referred to below as Fairfax Work) to Fairfax for publication, You agree to be bound by these terms and conditions.
1.2 You retain ownership of copyright in all Fairfax Works.
1.3 Subject to clauses 1.4 and 1.5, You grant to Fairfax a worldwide, irrevocable, exclusive licence to reproduce and deal with Fairfax Work by all means whatsoever.
1.4 Subject to clause 1.5, Fairfax agrees that You may license Fairfax Work (on a non-exclusive basis) for publication by a Third Party only if:
(a) the Fairfax Work has already been published in at least one Fairfax publication; or
(b) the Fairfax Work has been rejected by Fairfax.
1.5 You may only license Fairfax Work in accordance with clause 1.4 to a Third Party publication published substantially:
(a) outside Australia and New Zealand; or
(b) within Australia and New Zealand, but only if the publication is NOT published by any of the following Third Parties or their Related Bodies Corporate:
(i) News Corporation Limited;
(ii) Telstra Corporation Limited;
(iii) PBL Media Limited;
(iv) Publishing & Broadcasting Limited;
(v) ninemsn Pty Ltd;
(vi) Seven Network Limited;
(vii) Seven Media Group Pty Limited;
(viii) Yahoo!7 Pty Ltd;
(ix) West Australian Newspapers Limited;
(x) Australian Consolidated Press Limited;
(xi) APN News & Media Limited; or
(xii) Time Inc,
unless otherwise approved by Fairfax in writing (such approval not to be unreasonably withheld).
1.6 Any Fairfax Work published in a Fairfax publication will be attributed to You or, where applicable, the Author as agreed with Fairfax.
1.7 Fairfax, at its sole discretion, may determine whether and when it wishes to Publish Fairfax Works.

2. OTHER WORK
2.1 Unless You are an Occasional Contributor, in which case You will not in any way be restrained from providing Other Work to a Third Party, You must not provide any Other Work for publication in any publication published by any of the following entities or their Related Bodies Corporate:
(a) News Corporation Limited;
(b) Telstra Corporation Limited;
(c) PBL Media Limited;
(d) Publishing & Broadcasting Limited;
(e) ninemsn Pty Ltd;
(e) Seven Network Limited;
(f) Seven Media Group Pty Limited;
(g) Yahoo!7 Pty Ltd; or
(h) West Australian Newspapers Limited;
(i) Australian Consolidated Press Limited;
(j) APN News & Media Limited; or
(k) Time Inc,
unless otherwise approved by Fairfax in writing (such approval will not be unreasonably withheld).

You have to wonder just what they expect for $350-per-1000 words. As one multi-title freelancer put it, “the real absurdity is that as everyone knows, the modern newspaper is entirely dependent on the work of freelance writers. They’re cheaper.” It would seem Fairfax is intent on making its cake redundant and then eating it too.

The one point of consolation in all of this is that Crikey doesn’t feature on the forbidden publications list. We therefore extend a cordial welcome to all aspiring Fairfax contributors.

Send your story proposals to [email protected].

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