Copyright-grabbing contracts are on the rise, warns Gwen Thomas of the AOP.

Simon Bainbridge reports in the British Journal of Photography

Large publishing houses have come under attack for their use of unfair contracts, which increasingly demand widespread and ‘unnecessary’ copyright grabs. Gwen Thomas of the Association of Photographers claims that publishers are denying photographers a fair share of the future earnings that can be generated by a successful image, and she has condemned the European Union for dragging its heels on the issue. ‘Despite numerous voices calling for the development of European-wide unfair contract legislation, the EU Commission seems reluctant to take action,’ she said at the recent Pyramide Europe meeting in Riga, Latvia. ‘The latest changes in German contract law, which gives individual producers of creative works greater powers to challenge unfair contracts, shows both the need and direction it could follow,’ she added. ‘However, the lobbying power of the big publishers seems to be able to stop the rest of Europe enjoying a measure of safeguard from the disgraceful contracts that photographers and other creators are often coerced into signing.’ Pyramide Europe (of which Thomas is manager) is a European Economic Interest Group (EEIG), which acts as an umbrella organisation comprising similar organisations in all the EU countries. It is currently looking at the issue of unfair contracts. Thomas once again cited BBC Worldwide as one of the worst examples, warning: ‘Photographers, along with the rest of the creative industries, need to be able to safeguard the things they create – we are all part of the economy of intellectual property, and the big players need to operate with respect for the rights of individual creators, not trample over them simply because they are big and they can.’ She added: ‘All we are trying to establish is a system that is fair, forward looking and will allow creators to continue to create.’ Pyramide Europe would like to hear from photographers and other creators in the EU who have suffered from unfair contracts, especially if the contract is cross-border. Email Gwen Thomas at

Copyright and ‘Copyright Grabs’ My collected links

For many journalist, and in particular, freelance photographers …..Copyright Grabs have become a standard feature of so many clients contracts. They are a ‘try-on’. These links describe the issue, and some, like the NUJ, RedEye and EP-UK suggest ways of combating such requests.

I hope others, who find themselves in a similar situation [freelance photographers] find them interesting and of some use.

Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (c. 48)

The Copyright and Related Rights Regulations 2003 – Statutory Instrument 2003 No. 2498

NUJ Freelance Newsletter

NUJ Ten things every freelance should know on copyright:

Editorial Photographers UK – EP-UKTrading under the new copyright legislation

Response to Copyright Grab Attempts…

Redeye Copyright advice and information

Intellectual Property – UK gov advice

The Copyright Licensing Agency Ltd (CLA)

Creators’ Rights Alliance


Yorkshire Media: Photographic Copyright and Licensing Explained