Intellectual property lawyer responds to TC Media agreement

The new Transcontinental Media contributor agreement has raised a furor among freelancers over the past few weeks. TC Media, which publishes a variety of magazines including Canadian Living, Elle Canada, and The Hockey News, has increased the copyright demands in its new agreement and requires contributors to waive their moral rights.

This week Story Board contacted Warren Sheffer — a Toronto lawyer who specializes in intellectual property and business law — to ask about some of the clauses in the agreement.

In an email interview, Sheffer clarified the meaning of the term “moral rights.”

“A writer’s moral rights include the right to be named as author and to prevent prejudicial modifications of her work or prejudicial associative uses of such work, for example, with objectionable products or political causes,” he said.


“New technologies demand no such thing”


In a recent interview with Story Board, TC Media’s Susan Antonacci cited the advent of new technologies as the reason behind many of the changes to their contributor agreement. According to Antonacci, the publisher requires writers to waive their moral rights so their work can be modified for optimal viewing on a variety of platforms such as tablet and smartphone. Sheffer disagreed with these claims.

“It seems some publishers want writers to waive these basic rights on the ostensible premise that ‘new technologies’ demand it. New technologies demand no such thing,” he said.

“A writer should be credited for her work regardless of whether it appears in a print magazine or on a smartphone or tablet, and to violate the writer’s moral rights the publisher would have to go out of its way to modify or use an article in a manner that would prejudice the honour or reputation of its creator, something that has nothing to do with new technology.”


“writers are making less money”


As for the copyright issue, Antonacci told Story Board last month that TC Media requires full copyright over the work of their contributors in order to explore new content sharing initiatives in a rapidly changing media landscape. In response, Sheffer pointed out that publishers are not the only ones struggling in the new media environment.

“One of the disconcerting changes in the industry is that writers are making less money now than they did thirty years ago,” he said.

“If writers are compelled to assign all of their copyrights under agreements of the sort presently proposed by Transcontinental – and in so doing, rob themselves of opportunities to make additional income – query what kind of effect that will ultimately have on the content the industry is able to provide going forward,” he said.

The agreement has provoked strong public criticism from cultural organizations and freelancers’ groups across the country, including the CMG, the CEP, and AJIQ. Additional responses will be published on Story Board in the coming weeks.

If you would like more information about this agreement or would like to be involved in discussions about it with the Canadian Media Guild, please contact Keith Maskell at


Posted on March 8, 2013 at 9:15 am by editor · · Tagged with: , , , ,

One Response

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  1. Written by Ceci Flanagan-Snow
    on March 8, 2013 at 11:32 am
    Reply · Permalink

    Insightful. Thank you – from one of the writers / photographers who are ‘enjoying’ a steadily diminishing income.

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