Why I Am No Longer Writing The Column I Loved for The Toronto Star


By Ann Douglas

Three weeks ago, I was confronted with one of the most difficult decisions I have had to make in my career as a freelance writer: sign a highly objectionable freelance writing agreement or stop writing a column I loved.

In mid-February, I was presented with a copy of The Toronto Star’s freelance agreement—an agreement that, among other things, asked me to permit The Toronto Star, its affiliates, and unspecified “others” to reuse my work without any additional compensation to me (and without my having any control over who those others might be and how they might choose to use my work):


1. In consideration of the fee paid by the Publisher for a particular Work, the Freelancer hereby grants to the Publisher and to each of its affiliates, an irrevocable, perpetual, worldwide, royalty-free non-exclusive license to:

(i) publish, communicate to the public and distribute copies of the Work in any publications or properties of the Publisher or any of its affiliates; and

(ii) reproduce, publish, republish, compile, prepare derivative works from the Work (including use of the Work for marketing purposes by the Publisher and its affiliates) and, so long as such rights are exercised either (A) in association with the name of the Freelancer and the Publisher (or its affiliates, as applicable) or (B) as part of a database or archive of any of the publications or properties in (i) above or in products derived from any of them, sub-license or authorize others to exercise the above rights in this paragraph 1,

in any medium, context or form whatsoever, and by any means or technology, whether now known or developed in the future.


I was most concerned about allowing The Toronto Star to license my work to third parties. Over the years, I have turned down at least $75,000 worth of work from infant formula companies because I do not wish to do anything that would undercut breastfeeding. I have also turned down the opportunity to work with a number of other companies who represent other types of products and services. Therefore, signing the agreement “as is” simply wasn’t an option for me.

Despite my attempts to find some mutually acceptable common ground, I quickly discovered that The Toronto Star was not open to negotiating the terms of its freelance agreement. The agreement had to be signed “as is”—and before my next column could be published.

I chose not to sign.

As these things go, I’m relatively lucky:

  • This agreement was drafted in 2011. Due to someone’s administrative oversight, the agreement wasn’t presented to me until this past month. That means I managed to dodge this particular contract bullet for almost two years.
  • The Toronto Star offered to pay me for the column I had in progress when I was presented with this contract. It was a decent thing for them to do. And all of my editors—and the publisher—were kind and compassionate as we talked this thing through.
  • The day after I resigned from this contract, I was offered a two-book deal from a major Canadian publisher.

All that said, I can’t help but feel frustrated by the way things turned out. The word “agreement” implies that the two parties have had some sort of discussion and have found some common ground. That simply never happened in this situation. The “freelance agreement” was presented to me as a fait accompli—something to be signed—or not.

As I noted in the letter of resignation which I submitted to Toronto Star publisher John Cruikshank:

I have spent the past week trying to negotiate the terms of The Star‘s freelance agreement with various members of your staff.

Unfortunately, I have been told that the agreement must be signed “as is”—that there is no room for negotiation.

For the reasons outlined [elsewhere], that is simply not an option for me.

I loved having the opportunity to write for The Toronto Star. I was proud to be associated with a newspaper founded on principles of social justice.

And parents loved reading my columns in The Toronto Star. (I have a loyal following of Canadian readers, having sold 500,000 copies of the books in my pregnancy and parenting book series.)

I am disappointed that Toronto’s most progressive daily newspaper chose to act arbitrarily rather than progressively in dealing with my very legitimate contract concerns.

I have been left with no alternative but to give up a column that I loved writing and that was highly valued by Toronto Star readers.

Rather than ending up with the win-win I hoped to negotiate, we are each left with a lose-lose.

I know this won’t be the last time I have to push back hard against an unacceptable freelance agreement this year. (I’m already aware of at least one more contract battle I’ll be fighting.) I also know that the only way we’re going to prevent the continued deterioration of working conditions in our industry (to the point where writing becomes a quaint hobby as opposed to a respected profession) is by standing firm, shoulder to shoulder. I’m willing to take that stand with my fellow writers. How about you?


Ann Douglas is an author, magazine writer, and a past president of the Professional Writers Association of Canada (PWAC). She lives in Peterborough, Ontario. Her website is www.anndouglas.ca.

[Update/editor’s note: The CMG is still collecting signatures on its letter from freelancers protesting the Toronto Star’s contributor agreement. To see the letter — and find out how many have signed so far — please email Jean Broughton at jean@cmg.ca.]

Posted on February 26, 2013 at 9:30 am by editor · · Tagged with: , , ,

78 Responses

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  1. Written by Michelle Greysen
    on February 26, 2013 at 9:57 am
    Reply · Permalink

    BRAVO Ann – on what I know was truly a difficult decision. As Professional Writers, you are correct in your mention that we must stand shoulder to shoulder, firmly opposing contracts that steal our ability to earn a living. I am humbled to be standing in the background as a fellow PWAC member. Thank you!

  2. Written by Suzanne Boles
    on February 26, 2013 at 10:02 am
    Reply · Permalink

    Ann, I’m sorry to hear this but happy that you stood your ground. Publishers aren’t looking at their readership just their bottom line, with no consideration for ROI. We will see whether their decision will actually help or hurt them. I’m thinking the latter. Congrats on getting more book contracts.

  3. Written by Susan McNicoll
    on February 26, 2013 at 10:39 am
    Reply · Permalink

    A really hard decision Ann and, as a fellow writer, I applaud you. I hope that I would make the same decision as you did. It becomes harder and harder for us to hold on to the words we write as ours. The one-time North American Rights line of the old (very old) is long gone. You bring up a valid issue because what if words we write are used down the road to promote something that is totally against our principles. Scary times. But it seems you have been rewarded for your stand because you are now free to entirely devote yourself to two new books. Good luck.

  4. Written by Kathe Lieber
    on February 26, 2013 at 10:48 am
    Reply · Permalink

    Bravo, Ann – you’ve always taken the high road and set the standard for other freelancers. And congrats on the new book contract!

  5. Written by Kulbinder Saran Caldwell
    on February 26, 2013 at 11:11 am
    Reply · Permalink

    Congrats Ann! Wonderful to see you stand by your profession and principles. I too agree that it is important to support one another and I appreciate you writing this post to share your experience with others. Often I find it difficult to find a point of reference (like your example) when trying to make decisions that are right for me because we don’t tend to share – thinking that we may be an anomaly. I too went through a similar experience and chose not to sign either. And like you, feel many wonderful opportunities presented themselves once I was free. But what I find unbelievable is your comment of: “The word “agreement” implies that the two parties have had some sort of discussion and have found some common ground.” is so true but certainly not in practice. In today’s world of changing technology & a global audience, why do we continue to be subjected to archaic business practices that are not reflective of the world we work within? Pick up the phone and have a conversation with your employee (writer) and see what needs to be changed to ensure that you retain your talent. Seems like a win-win situation to me… but what do I know… I’m just putting words to paper and sharing my thoughts!

  6. Written by Ceci Flanagan-Snow
    on February 26, 2013 at 11:16 am
    Reply · Permalink

    Congratulations Ann. Not many would have taken that stand and not budged. It is a hard decision to turn down a paid writing job; especially if you both enjoy the topic and the editor(s) you work with.

    That said, the usurious contracts are becoming more and more common – and less and less acceptable to creators of both verbal and visual media content everywhere.

    All the best with your new book deal! Onward and upward.

  7. Written by Heather Wright
    on February 26, 2013 at 12:07 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    That must have been an awful week, Ann, and in spite of the new book deal, I’m sure it was a very sad moment when you submitted your last article. Thanks for taking a stand on this egregious contract and thanks for trying so hard to come to an ‘agreement.’ You showed them a great example of a professional at work. I wish you every success.

  8. Written by Paul Lima
    on February 26, 2013 at 12:43 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    I wish I were not skeptical (hell, cynical!), but I led a group of freelancers who tried to negotiate e-rights with the Star about 15 years ago. After a year of negotiations that went nowhere, we turned it over to PWAC. Who is ‘negotiating’ with the Star now? There is NO reason for the Star to negotiate in good faith, none that I can think of, with freelancers. None. Zero. Zip. Nada. Zilch. But as close minded as I appear to be, I am not. Would love to be proven wrong. Seriously. Prove me wrong, please!

    • Written by Karen Wirsig
      on February 26, 2013 at 2:13 pm
      Reply · Permalink

      The Canadian Media Guild, The Canadian Writers Group and PWAC have convened freelancers to meet with the Star about the latest contract that Ann writes about. There have been several meetings over the last 18 months or so and we are waiting for a response to some proposed changes sent in writing in the fall.

      You can see the last update on that here: http://www.thestoryboard.ca/some-progress-for-toronto-star-freelancers/ .

      The campaign is still on. Anyone who wants to join can contact jean@cmg.ca .

  9. Written by Pat Anderson
    on February 26, 2013 at 12:55 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    Thank you for your principled stand, Ann. Corporations are trying to take more and more, negotiating less and less, and driving things to the lowest possible price (free, if they can get away with it). The arts are endangered.

  10. Written by Heather Grace Stewart
    on February 26, 2013 at 1:32 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    My hero.
    (Ok, one of them. Definitely up there!)

    Thank you for taking this stand, Ann.
    I’m speaking at a journalism conference next week – to young university students, and I’m going to bring this example up.

  11. Written by Tara
    on February 26, 2013 at 1:35 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    Cheers to you and a bright future of freelance on your terms.

  12. Written by Justin Beach
    on February 26, 2013 at 1:36 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    Good on you for walking away. I understand that the newspaper industry is in trouble, but screwing the writers and the readers is not a good path back. It is unfortunate that young writers, people just starting out, have no real choice but to sign the kinds of agreements that you turned down.

  13. Written by Cheryl Jackson
    on February 26, 2013 at 1:42 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    Congratulations Ann on your book deal. That’s fantastic. And I applaud you for taking a stand against the Star. You raise a very serious concern…our work being used to promote products or ideas we don’t agree with, or at least never agreed to support. As we’ve discussed, quality content producers seem to be an endangered species. Not sure how these corps plan to fill their pages and websites. I wish the reading public would take a stand too…sigh.

  14. Written by Allan Lynch
    on February 26, 2013 at 1:57 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    With reference to Paul’s comment. Those of us with the memory of elephants will remember how in the early 1990s – around 1993 – the publishers came to us at PWAC to hammer out a fair deal with regard to e-rights. We blew it and have had to pay for that bad decision ever since.

    As Paul says there is no impetus for publishers to ‘negotiate’ contracts anymore. Not unless you are a marquee name. The world as it exists today is that writers agree or publishers close up shop or bring all work in-house.

  15. Written by Donna Papacosta
    on February 26, 2013 at 3:02 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    Good for you, Ann. Of course you will be missed in the Toronto Star. What a shame that the paper tries to force the “agreement” on writers in this way.

  16. Written by Meghan J. Ward - outdoor, travel and adventure writer
    on February 26, 2013 at 3:52 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    Thanks, Ann, for showing us “budding” writers the importance of integrity. Best of luck in your work ahead!

  17. Written by Mark Kearney
    on February 26, 2013 at 3:55 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    Let me add my congratulations Ann. I applaud you loudly for the stand you’ve taken, and I hope others will take up the cause. I intend to share your stance with my writing and journalism students as a way to show them how important copyright is.

  18. Written by Marty Hykin
    on February 26, 2013 at 4:30 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    Tough decision but a smart one – if a few others make the same decision the publication becomes kind of uninteresting to its readers and thus to its advertisers. . Classic case of publishers cutting off the nose to spite the face. Has it come to the whole world being run by accountants? (I don’t think I want to know the answer to that one.) My dad used to explain to me how the capitalist system was innately self-destructive and here we see it in action. The ultimate value of the business is in what the workers produce, not in the revenue stream. No product means no revenue. Oh duh!

  19. Written by Michael Irvine
    on February 26, 2013 at 5:06 pm
    Reply · Permalink


    Just like how the old music studios ripped off the Black bluesmen, jazz artists and early rock and rollers.

  20. Written by Jack Martin
    on February 26, 2013 at 5:41 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    And here’s what the Star wants you to agree to when you post a photo on their GRID pool on flickr – forever and ever.

    “HOW WE’LL USE YOUR SHOTS: By adding your photos to this group, you grant The Grid, a division of Toronto Star Newspapers Limited, the authority to display, republish and use them, with credit and without further compensation, online at thegridto.com and in any other digital medium that exists now or in the future. If The Grid wishes to publish your photos in print, you’ll be notified and given the choice to either approve or disapprove of that use.”

    • Written by Mort
      on February 26, 2013 at 11:33 pm
      Reply · Permalink

      Someone from the Grid recently asked me to give them photos from The Edge, taken in 1979, with no payment. They explained that they have “no budget” for photography. I mentioned their affiliation with The Star & declined, but other photographers I know complied, which damages us all. As a professional freelance photographer I was asked several years ago by a different Canadian daily to sign a similar contract to the one the Star is offering its writers, but with a 5% of the original fee re-publication bonus… something amounting to the princely sum of $10. a pop. I ignored it, and they never hired me again. Same with a local weekly, which took offence when I dared to bring up the topic with them. Things are dire. For us, that is.

  21. Written by Elaine & Robert Arthur III
    on February 26, 2013 at 5:56 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    I applaud you for supporting breast-feeding! Mead-Johnson can suck it-pun intended.

  22. Written by Roger Clowater
    on February 26, 2013 at 6:02 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    I am so annoyed at the Toronto Star for their lack of consideration for our talent!

  23. Written by Penny Scott
    on February 26, 2013 at 6:07 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    Ann, so sorry to hear about your last couple of weeks. I admire the decision that you made, although I’m sure it didn’t come easily. Many congrats on the book deal 🙂

  24. Written by Jennifer Moreau
    on February 26, 2013 at 6:12 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    Good for you.

  25. Written by Gordon Graham
    on February 26, 2013 at 6:13 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    Reminds me that the mystic law of the universe is cause: effect. As we sew, so shall we reap. Is it a surprise that the once-mighty newspaper empires are crumbling before our eyes? They treated their (freelance) writers shabbily… and so have the unions representing full-time reporters. Now all the laid-off reporters are asking us how to freelance.

    Well, the best answer is to start 20 or 30 years ago, as some of us did. You are way, way ahead of the game, Ann. Don’t look back. Hope those two books help you forget about the Star, and continued success!

  26. Written by Barry A. Martin
    on February 26, 2013 at 8:29 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    I’d say you’re mistaken on one point Ann.
    It’s not quite lose-lose.
    I bet standing for something (again) has already started to come back to you and will continue to.

    Congrats on the new adventures.

  27. Written by Victoria Lehman
    on February 26, 2013 at 9:33 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    A travesty, and a great loss to an Industry fighting to the bottom. They don’t even realize it. Idiots.

  28. Written by Sue Martin
    on February 26, 2013 at 9:57 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    I have not seen the contract but as a writer I do have an issue with contracts that appear to want rights to my work far beyond those of immediate use.

  29. Written by Maria @amotherworld
    on February 27, 2013 at 3:17 am
    Reply · Permalink

    Kudos to you, Ann. You’re an inspiration!

  30. Written by Diane Wolf
    on February 27, 2013 at 4:48 am
    Reply · Permalink

    Ann, your legacy as a writer will not only be the vast number of books and articles that have inspired others, but your reputation as a woman of integrity and character. I’m so proud of you, but so sad that there are not more people in the world like you!

  31. Written by maureen soch
    on February 27, 2013 at 5:06 am
    Reply · Permalink

    another reason to admire Ann Douglas <3

  32. Written by Catherine A. Cocchio
    on February 27, 2013 at 5:54 am
    Reply · Permalink

    Thanks Ann! You know how to deal with bullies. Take your toys and go home. It must be something about Toronto…..this is the way they deal with teachers too, but they’re stuck with a bad deal. We (writers)choose our own direction, and sometimes when we’re pushed we end up in a better place. Now start writing those books!

  33. Written by Wendy H
    on February 27, 2013 at 6:06 am
    Reply · Permalink

    Kudos to you, Ann! I tweeted your story and wish you the very best of luck with your new publishing contract.

  34. Written by Patty
    on February 27, 2013 at 6:43 am
    Reply · Permalink

    “founded on principles of social justice” has gone the way of blanket corporate control… kudos to Ann Douglas! If you don’t stand up for something then you stand for nothing!!!
    And also, thank you for refusing to support formula manufacturers and sticking to your own VALUABLE principles!!!

  35. Written by Virginia Heffernan
    on February 27, 2013 at 6:59 am
    Reply · Permalink

    Thanks for raising awareness on this serious issue Ann. There was a time when accomplished writers could cross out or reword those offensive clauses. By refusing to negotiate, publishers are losing the very asset that attracts eyeballs to their pages. It’s a remarkably backward way to do business.

    • Written by Carroll McCormick
      on February 28, 2013 at 3:38 am
      Reply · Permalink

      Yes. Very shortsighted.

  36. Written by Ali
    on February 27, 2013 at 7:10 am
    Reply · Permalink

    Stand to your ground. You did a brave attempt discussing this matter openly and you have our support!!!!

  37. Written by Kirsten Doyle
    on February 27, 2013 at 7:10 am
    Reply · Permalink

    Ann, as someone new to freelance writing, I applaud you. I am so sorry you had to go through this, and I thank you for sharing your story. It is extremely valuable for people like me who are just starting out.

  38. Written by Harry van Bommel
    on February 27, 2013 at 7:10 am
    Reply · Permalink

    There is no financial incentive for publishers to adequately pay their free-lancers because there are so many of us willing to work for next to nothing to build our reputations and pay our rent. Most writers can’t afford to turn down work and publishers know that. It is a gross misuse of Canada’s talented writers who provide the content that lets other in-house professionals (publishers, designers, editors, marketing, sales, distribution) make a fairer income. None will jeopardize their jobs to ensure fairer income for content providers. That said, we are creative bunch and we are smart. We need to re-focus our talents to paying writing streams. PWAC helps us do some of that but we also need to re-examine our writing priorities. We write because we have something to say. We need to find, or CREATE other revenue streams for our work and leave the freelance work to beginners. Just as Ann has found her readers outside of the newspaper, so can we. Only then will publishers understand what they are doing to their own industry.

  39. Written by greg
    on February 27, 2013 at 7:38 am
    Reply · Permalink

    there is also the Canadian Freelance Union, http://canadianfreelanceunion.ca/ part of the CEP

  40. Written by Donna Kirk
    on February 27, 2013 at 8:21 am
    Reply · Permalink

    So sorry to hear I will no longer be able to read those great atricles. Being a new grandmother, your information brought be into kiddy land focus once again.

    But, I’m looking forward to reading those two new books! Can’t wait…

  41. Written by Jean Laurier
    on February 27, 2013 at 8:33 am
    Reply · Permalink

    I do not know you, so I cannot say if you are right or wrong. But let’s take a few seconds to put a choice like yours in an historical point of view.
    A few years back there was a lock-out in Le Journal de Québec. Some well intended columnists, most of them center-left decided to put an end to their collaboration to protest against the unfair conflict and to respect the workers locked out. The consequence of this is that now only right-wings columnists are left to poison our minds. No one is left to reply. This is no good for democracy.

  42. Written by Manfredglory
    on February 27, 2013 at 8:36 am
    Reply · Permalink

    Would you Ann, and the people leaving comments here, consider signing a petition against the parts of the agreement you feel you can’t comply with, and asking for a rewritten agreement? Am I naive to wonder whether this couldn’t lead to a compromise that keeps talent freelance at the Star? I write for the Star, and unlike many of you, don’t have a book deal or other fixed revenue sources. I have a four year old daughter. I am not prepared to walk away from what has been so far, a creatively and professionally rewarding connection to the paper. I simply am not in that position of strength. But I would be willing to sign a petition asking for the paper to negotiate towards a more equitable agreement; one that takes into account the ethical ramifications, in particular for sources quoted in our work. Our sources need better protection, especially when we are often using the stories of people who are, by dint of being ‘newsworthy’, also vulnerable. Please note: I received your blog entry, Ann, from four totally separate contacts this morning. Three were from other writers, one a family member. These were actual email letters to me, containing the link: not just Facebook mentions. I expect to receive more alerts from concerned contacts, before the day is out. This suggests to me that this issue has found its moment: and now is the time to tap into this general consensus of opinion about the matter, and leverage it for positive change.
    Am I terribly naive? Call me so, but lets try the petition first, folks!

    • Written by editor
      on February 27, 2013 at 11:02 am
      Reply · Permalink

      Thanks for your comment. If you haven’t already signed the CMG’s letter to the Toronto Star about this agreement, you can email Jean Broughton (jean@cmg.ca) to find out more.

    • Written by Ann Douglas
      on February 28, 2013 at 3:00 pm
      Reply · Permalink

      Hi Manfredglory –

      I totally understand your position. And I appreciate your bravery in even posting this comment.

      A group of freelancers has been trying to get The Toronto Star to change some of the terms of this agreement since 2011. It would be great if The Toronto Star decided to reconsider its position.

      PS I was one of the writers who signed the letter mentioned below back in 2011.

  43. Written by Cindy Burgess
    on February 27, 2013 at 9:38 am
    Reply · Permalink

    Congratulations Ann, on a brave and admirable move!

  44. Written by Elle Andra-Warner
    on February 27, 2013 at 9:39 am
    Reply · Permalink

    Kudos Ann for standing your ground on a tough challenge. Honoured to stand beside you on the frontline. Thanks for reminding us that writing is an honourable, wonderful profession but sometimes we need to fight to keep it that way.

  45. Written by PJ Wade
    on February 27, 2013 at 11:01 am
    Reply · Permalink

    A bravely made decision, Ann. It does matter what happens to our content and reputations. It does matter that we stand by our ethics. To us and our readers. As long as there are writers who will step in to “recycle” other writer’s work and fill their shoes, this will be common practice with publishers. Congrats on your book deal. Watch the fine print there, too.

  46. Written by Miles C. O'Reilly
    on February 27, 2013 at 12:06 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    Let me see if I understand this: you were hired to deliver a specified product to a client and were asked to give up all rights to the product for which you’d been paid, even if the client subsequently found ways to obtain value from that product in ways that weren’t mentioned in your contract. How is that different from the labour any of the rest of us provide to our employers? Yes, it goes out under your name – but most of us don’t get that recognition.

    The only stipulation that you should be reasonably able to expect is that if the piece appears in a context that was not foreseeable by you and in which your name might carry with it some kind of approval or endorsement, the original context for which the piece was produced should be clear. This kind of thing may be more nuanced when it’s a work of art or cultural significance, but not plain old work for hire.

  47. Written by Keith Maskell, Staff Representative, CMG
    on February 27, 2013 at 2:35 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    @Miles: What you’re saying is correct if the work in question were created as the product of an employment relationship. It was not; Ann was commissioned to do a piece of wrting – a work of art, if you will – that was to be published.

    Your comment refers to the “nuance” that you admit exists for works of art or cultural significance. People remember who created the Mona Lisa or the Firebird Suite, not who paid for them. Painting a picture or writing a piece of music or, yes, a magazine article isn’t the same as making a hammer.

    What TC Media is proposing is just the latest attack against independent content creators. It’s all the more egregious when one notes that the rates for freelance writing haven’t gone up appreciably in the past thirty years or so. That’s why people are cranky and nearly all the comments on Ann’s post are supportive.

  48. Written by Mary
    on February 27, 2013 at 3:18 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    As a breast feeding mom, thank you!

  49. Written by Muffintop Jones
    on February 27, 2013 at 5:18 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    what does this have to do with contacts?

    if your work was as valuable as you say, you could negotiate higher pay for it. likely it isn’t, it’s just generic content. the world is awash in that.

    such a shame the internet was invented, but i bet it’s hurting the publishers more than the freelancers. does anyone think newspapers are rich these days?

    • Written by editor
      on February 28, 2013 at 10:27 am
      Reply · Permalink

      This is the first and last time a troll-like comment will be approved on Story Board. Under our brand new comment policy, any comment intended purely to provoke an angry response will be deleted. This comment demonstrates ignorance of the issue at hand and adds nothing of value to the conversation.

  50. Written by Tamas
    on February 28, 2013 at 5:01 am
    Reply · Permalink

    Good job! I think you handled the whole thing with un-compromised integrity!

  51. Written by Mariellen Ward
    on February 28, 2013 at 8:39 am
    Reply · Permalink


    This is the reason I stopped writing for print publications and now work almost exclusively for my own blog. Today, I got offered an assignment to write about a service that fits the mandate of my blog, adds content to my blog, pays $650 — far, far more than newspapers pay for short travel articles — and I don’t have to sign a nasty contract.

    I can’t understand why publishers are so short-sighted — don’t they see writers have all kinds of alternative outlets in this day and age?

    One day, they are going to realize: they need us more than we need them. I am looking forward to that day.

    Bravo. You did the right thing.

  52. Written by CJ Dobson
    on February 28, 2013 at 10:53 am
    Reply · Permalink

    The Halifax Herald tried a smiliar trick two years ago. A number of us worked with the Canadian Freelancers Union at the time. The head of content at the Herald at the time was a brick wall and many quit. Some came back. The Herald is poorer for the way it treated its people..

  53. Written by Jennifer Margulis
    on February 28, 2013 at 10:54 am
    Reply · Permalink

    Good for you girlfriend, for sticking up for yourself and every freelancer AND speaking out publicly about the decision. It’s very difficult. Writers for Conde Nast are dealing with this now — they have a new, totally draconian contract and many of us feel it is unethical and should not be signed…

  54. Written by Royan Lee
    on February 28, 2013 at 11:26 am
    Reply · Permalink

    I’m terribly worried about what this means for journalism (an essential aspect of a democratic society) moving forward. Why would anyone with any integrity agree to those insane terms? Good for you for standing your ground. Can’t wait to read your book.

  55. Written by Robert Fripp
    on February 28, 2013 at 12:30 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    Congratulations, Ann. Look at it this way. If you have already sold 500,000 copies of your books, you don’t need the Toronto Star. What you may benefit from is getting the services of a marketer who can take your columnist past and translate it into another profitable channel for your talent. Wishing you the very best of luck, Robert Fripp

  56. Written by Ann Douglas
    on February 28, 2013 at 2:51 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    Sorry for being so slow in responding to all the comments on the blog. I have been overwhelmed (in a good way) by all the Tweets, Facebook posts, e-mails, etc., I have received since this post went live. Thank you so much for all the supportive comments. I really appreciate them.

    Fellow writers: stay strong. We have more options than we think. And that strength is found by joining forces and sharing information with one another. @anndouglas

  57. Written by John Helfrich
    on February 28, 2013 at 4:27 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    It’s hard to lead a mindful, principled life. But the rewards are well worth it. I hope your book deal is just the beginning of those rewards.

  58. Written by Mandy
    on March 1, 2013 at 12:00 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    is it troll-like to disagree? comments only accepted if they join the chorus?

  59. Written by Lori Henry
    on March 3, 2013 at 10:43 am
    Reply · Permalink

    Thank you for making your decision and story public, Ann. This is a hot topic and one that deserves attention. Good for you for standing up for what you believe – these contracts that buy all rights, now and in the future, should not be signed by us.

    Congrats on the book deals!

  60. Written by Shannon Lee Mannion
    on March 3, 2013 at 2:04 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    Mandy, I am concerned, too. Comments which disagree with the status quo on a topic, even if they are disagreeable, should be included.

    • Written by editor
      on March 3, 2013 at 7:04 pm
      Reply · Permalink

      Opinions of all kinds are welcome. We ask that commenters refrain from personal insults and attacks on posters and other commenters. We want to maintain an atmosphere of civility on Story Board in order to encourage discussion about issues that are important to media freelancers.

  61. Written by Lorrie Beauchamp
    on March 4, 2013 at 1:06 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    Ann, I’m sincerely torn about this one, although it seems I’m the only writer responding who is. I can’t help think that if someone pays me for content, they then “own” it, and can do what they want with it. If I buy a painting from an artist, I can hang it anywhere I want and resell it to whomever I please, can I not? Why would a piece of writing be any different? Perhaps it’s the value we should be looking at, not the issue of payment vs. non-payment?

    I’m also carefully observing the new concept of FREE which the Internet has started swirling around our ankles like dry ice at a concert. I love the idea of sharing my writing for free, if only to reach as many readers as possible.

    I saw you speak at a recent conference, and I truly admire your work and your professional ethics, so please don’t see this as a criticism of your actions, because it seems the writing community feels the same way you do. Just thought I would be honest with my reply, as discussions should highlight both sides of any issue.

    • Written by CWG
      on March 4, 2013 at 2:36 pm
      Reply · Permalink

      Lorrie, we would highly recommend that you read Jay Teitel’s open letter to Transcontinental Publishing, posted earlier today:


      It should help to explain why copyright and ownership of work is important to professional writers.

    • Written by Karen
      on March 5, 2013 at 6:35 am
      Reply · Permalink

      I think the painting analogy actually helps explain the problem here. If you sell the painting, that’s what you sell: an analog, actual piece of artwork with a signature on it. The buyer can hang it wherever they like, sell it if they like. I guess the buyer could event paint over it, or change it somehow…but why would they? Selling a magazine piece is similar. You are selling a story to a magazine that will appear in that magazine. People will read it, might cut it out and file it for future reference or post it on a bulletin board, but what they have is the printed magazine piece. Now publishers are taking that same magazine piece and hoping to exploit the work, the idea, the concept, the subjects, without any further obligation to the creators or the subjects themselves. When you sell a painting, you aren’t selling the idea, the subject, the colours, the technique forever to a company that will try to find ways to exploit your work, all without giving you any extra compensation.

  62. Written by anon
    on March 4, 2013 at 3:26 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    I was offered a similar contract to this by Hamilton Magazine and walked away from it. Although the editor was sympathetic, his hands were tied since the magazine is owned Town Media which in turn is owned by Sun Media (which owns a gazillion newspapers and magazines). What I found most worrisome was giving up control over where my work and my NAME might appear in future. When you think about it, I would be giving up control of the words of my SOURCES as well — without getting their permission. Sources generally agree to being interviewed for a particular magazine, not ANY and ALL magazines in the world in the future. Say, for example, you publish an article for a magazine and interview someone who is pro-choice on the abortion issue. The first magazine is pro-choice friendly or at least neutral. They use the quotes as provided. Then the owner of another magazine in the magazine stable wants to use the article and since you’ve agreed to let ANYONE use it and MODIFY it as they see fit, that second magazine could be anti-choice in its outlook and change the wording of some of those quotes (chop off some words, that’s all it would take) and the message could flip to the exact opposite of what your source intended. What are you going to tell your source when they come back to sue your butt?
    Another scenario: you write a travel article for a general interest magazine you respect. The conglomerate owns a men’s magazine featuring porn. They have a travel section and use your story. An editor new to you Googles your name to check out your recent work and the first story that pops up is in the porn mag.
    I’d rather not write at all if I have to give up control over my reputation.

  63. Written by BOBO
    on March 4, 2013 at 9:28 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    Yeah…don’t forget to read the sign over the entrance….”WORK WILL SET YOU FREE”….sound familiar?

  64. Written by Lorrie Beauchamp
    on March 5, 2013 at 10:11 am
    Reply · Permalink

    Thanks to CWG for the link, I will educate myself further. My question, though, is not coming from a place of uninformed thinking; I have been a freelance writer for over 20 years and I understand the issues. I just think the picture is changing.

    @Karen, thanks for taking the painting analogy a bit further. I suspect that what enrages us most is that companies can take advantage of artists by leveraging our work as a resalable commodity. Perhaps our complaint is more about corporate greed than about protecting our ideas. You used the word “exploit”, which is equally applicable.

  65. Written by Randy Ray
    on March 5, 2013 at 12:23 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    And newspapers wonder why circulation is dropping like a stone … they mistreat their best freelancers; freelancers then quit; and editorial quality suffers. Sadly, falling quality means less revenue and smaller budgets for freelancers. It’s a vicious circle. Good for you Ann for taking a stand!

  66. Written by Tom Douglas
    on March 7, 2013 at 7:31 am
    Reply · Permalink

    First a disclaimer. I am not related to Ann Douglas and, to the best of my knowledge, we have never even met. But I went through a similar situation with the Ottawa Citizen a few years ago. Their travel section and I had enjoyed a great relationship – with them publishing many of my articles – until some beancounter decided on a contract that read just like the one Ann refused to sign. I refused as well and that was the end of the relationship. Sad to say, there are scabs out there who will happily sign such restrictive contracts – and others who will write for free, especially if a travel junket is involved. Unfortunately, the publishers hold all the cards and writers’ organizations don’t seem to have the clout to do anything about it.

  67. Written by M Parker
    on April 1, 2013 at 9:25 am
    Reply · Permalink

    Way to go, Ann. I fully support you and believe you’ve made a wise decision.

  68. Written by Julie Schwietert Collazo
    on April 5, 2013 at 8:46 am
    Reply · Permalink

    Thank you for being a role model for other freelancers who struggle with the decision to sign these ridiculous freelance contracts.

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