WHY I PROTECT MY COPYRIGHT, AND WHY I CAN'T WORK FOR FREE.
If you’ve been directed to this page, it’s for one of two reasons: either you’ve violated my copyright by using my material without permission, or you’ve asked me for photos or text for free.
Much as I’d love to be a millionaire without a care in the world, I’m actually a very hardworking freelance writer and photographer who relies on the material I produce to earn a living.
Many outsiders don’t see the problem in using creative people’s material for free, especially as the Internet has created the perception that everything is available for nothing. I hope the below will make you think again and that, if you wish to use my material, we can come to a mutually beneficial arrangement to do so.
My writing and photography are my sole source of income. If I give these away, I earn no return on the effort that has gone into creating them. And if I spend time responding to requests for free material, it takes time away from making money.
“But I have a limited budget myself.” It’s often explained to me that the person or company requesting the material has no funds. Frankly, this is little more than a cynical manipulation of a freelancer’s good will. No doubt everyone else in your company is being paid, from the editor and printer (or web host) to the person who cleans your office after you’ve gone home. I see no reason why freelancers should be the only ones expected to work for free, or supply free material that will end up placed beside advertising from which an income is generated.
You wouldn’t ask this of any other supplier. You wouldn’t go to the hairdressing salon, the supermarket or the opera house and offer to pay less for their services just because you have budget constraints.
Producing material is a significant investment of time, money and effort. It involves travel-related costs, expensive equipment and production time. On top of this, freelancers are obliged to provide their own office space, sick leave, holiday pay and superannuation contributions. Not to mention, it takes many years of hard work, training and experience to produce the quality of material which you’re requesting.
“But I like your writing, and all I did was reproduce it on my personal website or blog.” I’m flattered, but this can cause a freelancer many problems. Most importantly, it prevents me selling any further rights in the story, which now appears worldwide on the Internet. Almost as importantly, if it is edited and altered, or appears on an unprofessional-looking website, this damages my “brand” by representing me in a way I’m not comfortable with.
Simply offering to credit work, or claiming it will promote my “profile” is meaningless. Freelancers are the copyright holders of their own material, which requires credit as a matter of course, not as a particular favour. Nor does such “profile promotion” cover the cost of producing the material in the first place, never mind earn me an income. What improves my profile is generating well-written, professional material over which I retain control.
“I can always get the material from someone else.” I'm aware there are many people willing to give away their work. But anyone who does so is either inexperienced, desperate or has an alternate source of income. In short, the chances of your getting professional material for free are slim. Only you can decide what quality you wish for your website or publication, but quality generally has to be paid for. You might also want to consider the overall publishing picture and what an expectation of free work creates, not just for freelancers, but for everyone in the media industry – yourself included.
THE SMALL PRINT
All material on this website, unless otherwise credited, is the intellectual property of Brian Johnston and is copyright. It may not be used or reproduced in any form without the writer’s express permission.
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