Knight Ridder

Making a Bad Deal Worse

ASMP has received from an unofficial source a copy of the new freelance contract from Knight Ridder Tribune Information Services. Knight Ridder publishes some 31 daily newspapers across the country, including the Detroit Free Press, the Miami Herald, and both of Philadelphia’s major dailies. It also publishes about 20 non-daily newspapers.

This appears to be the first of the ripple effects that ASMP has been anticipating following the introduction of the current New York Times contract. The Knight Ridder contract that we have seen appears to be an effort at taking the New York Times’ freelance contract and cutting and pasting it to make it a worse deal for freelance photographers. In the process, the document has become so garbled that it begs the question of whether it is a final document or a preliminary draft.

Among the high (or low) points are the following. First, it starts out by making all assignments works made for hire. Then, it requires the freelancers to transfer to the publisher “an undivided, one-half ownership interest to your works that you submit to the Publisher.” This makes no sense, since in a work made for hire situation, the photographers have no rights to transfer. One can only guess that it was intended to mimic the arrangement used in the current NY Times contract, only it omitted the step of transferring a one-half interest in the copyrights from Knight Ridder to the photographers.

In any event, as with most work for hire contracts, the photographers get paid only the initial fee up front, with no further payments for later uses. Adding to the difficulties in analyzing the contract are drafting problems, such as the fact that one paragraph appears twice, for no apparent reason. Exhibit A: Fees, Expenses and Payment Terms was blank in the copy of the agreement received by ASMP.

The contract is about as bad as it can get for freelance photographers. The company’s view of photographers is best demonstrated by the fact that, in more than one place, the freelancers are referred to, not as “him” or “her,” but as “it.”

As with all bad agreements, photographers must ask themselves whether they can be adequately compensated for the detrimental effects of signing such a contract. ASMP believes that this contract is not in the best interests of working publication photographers.