‘Times’ writers may be ‘progressive’, but not when it comes to their own property

The Los Angeles Times has a capital idea for increasing its own capital. Get rights to the works of writers employed by the paper, even if the works aren’t created as part of their reportage. The newspaper has been negotiating a new contract, and it appears writers aren’t happy. These workers may be progressive, but not when it comes to giving away their own property. Can you blame them?

BoingBoing and other media have reported on this, summing up the dispute:

“The LA Times Guild has been negotiating a new contract with the newspaper, but has hit a wall thanks to an unprecedented demand from the paper’s owners: they want writers to sign away the rights to nonfiction books, novels, movies and other works they create separate from their reporting for the paper. The newspaper is also demanding the right to use reporters “byline, biography and likeness” to market these works.”

As Cinemontage pointed out, the newspaper’s founder definitely was no fan of unionization.

If I wrote for the Times as an employee, I’d be looking for employment elsewhere if I had to yield control of other works I created as an employee. The concept is almost feudal, if you think about it.

Ironically, LA Times writers, like most in the “news” business, are likely predominantly Democrats, although this is based on self-reportage. It could be that Republicans and Libertarians (capital ‘L’ here) are reluctant to disclose their political affiliations. I place little faith in polls, but the majority of media workers I know are Dems.

The current owner of The LA Times is billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong.

I learned about the intellectual property rights grab attempt through the Authors Guild (I’m a member). AG president James Gleick said:

“The LA Times must drop this egregious demand,” said Authors Guild president James Gleick. “A newspaper is meant to nurture its writers, not treat them as indentured servants. This ill-conceived power play is an assault on authorship.”

I agree with his statement, and I’d encourage all media workers to monitor this process.

It’s also a good idea to use this as a teaching moment.  Consider that those who don’t like high income taxes probably feel the same way about their financial property as those ‘reporters’ feel about their intellectual property.

(Kay B. Day/March 4, 2019)

 

 

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