Who owns my rights?

Controversy over the right to use and distribute freelance content by others is becoming more interesting and more convoluted by the day. According to a recent article in the January-February 2005 issue of Information Highways magazine, the courts in Canada are making huge strides to protect the copyrights of freelancers.

On the flip side, according to the editor of that publication, a recent change in the standard freelance contract overcomes those rights. I find it interesting that freelancers are being asked (at least by this one company) to turn over their rights in such an all-encompassing way…I’m a writer, and I understand that especially when we first begin writing, that we are willing to nearly sell our souls for those first few bylines. But, even with that said, I find the language of the contract quoted to be a bit overboard.

According to the article, that particular company’s contract says the following:

Freelancer hereby irrevocably grants and assigns to CanWest all rights of every kind in and to the Content (including copyright), and agrees that CanWEst shall have the right to exclusively use and exploit the Content in any manner and in any and all media, whether now known or hereafter devised, throughout the universe, in perpetuity.

My goodness – throughout the UNIVERSE? In Perpetuity? Use and Exploit? Any and all media?

Hmm. It makes one wonder if the value of writers has finally been noted by those purchasing that content – even if it’s only noted when there is a problem.

It’s interesting to me that Earth is no longer vast enough. And a defined measure of years is not long enough. Now rights must be across the Universe and the duration is now Forever!

I do hope that most freelancers will spend as much care reading their contracts before signing as they do editing their writing before submitting!