I am on vacation. I have diligently avoided sitting in front of the computer ever since Barcelona. As I’ve said, I’m doing art: working on one major project , painting a bit – but mainly thinking: projects I’d like to do, approaches I’d like to develop further, meaning of life, future of media, whatever… Working on my life, simply.
And I would have liked to keep it that way. Last night I parked Princess Sophie in Paradiset in the Stockholm Archipelago – appropriately named so – and had some fresh smoked shrimp with white wine on the deck with the family at sunset. It was about as perfect as life gets.
But my mind was elsewhere.
Earlier during the day I’d gotten a phonecall from a colleague and a very good friend mine. The nicest of guy, several kids, just trying to make his living through his pictures. He’d just received a call from Aller (a major magazine publisher in Finland) demanding – well you know, the usual: all the rights now and in the future for all the company’s publications, no compensation for this, legal responsibilities for the photographer, etc. You know the story, the same bullshit the industry has been pushing aggressively for the past year at least.
Actually, I have no complaints about theses “all rights” -agreements. I have several myself, all with a bit different terms – terms we have agreed together. With – I should not say this, but I will – all with financial compensation I can live with.
No, I am not proposing the Sleazeballprize 2010 for that. it’s not the content but the delivery: “You have 48 hours to sign the paper or we will call off all the work we have already agreed on and you will never work for any of our publications again. Ever.”
There is a obvious reason for this hasty approach: during this week all the union lawyers are still on vacation and they have said that they will start dealing with the freelance contracts next week.
Who in their right mind let’s carbage like that out of their mouth? Whatever the publisher or you boss tell you to do, you really go and repeat it, even if you can taste the pure shit in your mouth? That is pure blackmailing, simple as that, kicking somebody at the moment when they are most vulnerable, lying on the ground . One should go to jail for that.
If I called up somebody and to speed up our business interaction would spice it with “you know, I know which school your kids go to…” or “I know you live in a beautiful wooden house, I’m sure you have a good fire alarm installed…” what would be the difference? Yes, mine would be a direct threat deserving a criminal charge… yet, at the times like this, they sound awfully alike, don’t you think?
If I were working for a publisher and given no choice but to propose something like that I’d just quit myself. I’m not the most handsome guy, but I still like to take a look in the mirror occasionally and silently approve what I see. There is a limit each and everyone should allow themselves to be pushed. Yes, obviously I don’t have that problem – and as I don’t work for Aller either – it’s easy for me to tell them kiss my ass.
But it’s not about Aller actually, it’s about people. Germany in forties had a similar system: just follow the orders, it’s not actually your life or your decision – and thus, you are not responsible.
At the age of 48 I am a veteran in this business. The 30-35 year olds now elbowing to the lower and middle management positions take for granted that this kind of dealing is the correct modus operandi in our field and in human relations in general: save your own ass, make the profit margin of your employer maximized, and you shall be blessed with a bonus and another year of your cushy, steady job. You can piss on people, you can screw them, you can tramp on them, you can blackmail them… after all, they are just freelancers, they are not human. Sounds familiar?
Shame on you!
I am sure other publishers will follow again in the fall, try to push same kind of papers through. This is a desperate attempt to save money as if that would change something. Trust me: it doesn’t. You are just wasting your most valuable asset: the creative, talented people whose work might be interesting enough for the readers (and advertizers) to pay something for in the future. Maybe.
Blackmailing contracts like this will just make sure that there is no atmosphere for creative talent to exist – at the time when it really would be needed.
The words of another friend earlier this summer have been haunting me: “You know Kari, the economy has gotten a boost forward, I’m sure it’ll be better in the fall”.
Let me spell it out for you: “NO IT WON*T”.
The death spiral the print is experiencing has practically nothing to do with the present economic crises. What we are experiencing is a structural change. The recession works merely as a catalyst, that’s it. Unless some creative measures are taken, it will not get better. Not this year, not the next one either.
And butt-fucking freelancers during the holiday period do not read as “creative measures” in my book. It is purely an evil and mean act and should be punishable by the law.