Highlights of the FIRE Contract Template

Overview

Below are some of the features of the FIRE Contract Template, which introduces protections for freelancers while meeting an outlet's basic demand in an attempt to make freelance investigations more viable and sustainable. 

The Template, designed by former Bloomberg News Global Media Counsel Charles Glasser, provides that publishers or broadcasters will "indemnify" freelance reporters—that is, agree to cover their legal costs in case of legal action arising from their reporting, provided the reporters adhere to professional journalism standards. It adds protections on other key issues, from copyright and revisions, to proofs and severability, all summarized below.

To request the Template, visit FIRE Contract Template

Liability

  • Provides that the outlet indemnifies the freelancer—i.e., agrees to cover the costs associated with any legal action—as long as the reporter keeps a basic, realistic promise. 
  • Explicitly places freelancer on outlet's insurance to facilitate the indemnification.
  • Includes the kind of promise a freelancer should always make in exchange for indemnification (i.e., uphold professional standards) for an alternative to the perilous phrases found in many contracts. 
  • To protect the outlet and reporter alike, guides how a reporter should respond to complaints about the story after it appears (e.g.,, in promotions, interviews, blogs)—an increasingly important element in the age of social media, personal platforms, and brand-building.  
  • To build mutual trust and confidence in the reporting, clarifies up front who’s responsible for fact-checking and pre-publication legal review, including responsibility for payment. 

Rights

  • Clarifies and defines the terms for the outlet’s exclusive use of the story, after which the rights are non-exclusive and the freelancer can re-sell the story, in same or different form, to supplement income.
  • Provides freelancer sole rights to all notes, outtakes, research, recordings, etc. — all work product.  
  • Provides freelancer all rights to any derivative works.  

Payment

  • Clarifies potential reimbursement of expenses.  
  • Establishes kill fee.  

Editorial process

  • Provides mutually agreeable deadline for outlet to accept or decline the story draft — so the freelancer isn’t left indefinitely waiting for a response from editor or producer. 
  • Clarifies and limits expectations for revisions and additional reporting. 
  • Provides freelancer a mutually agreed amount of time to review final proofs, including associated text (e.g., headlines), to identify inadvertent error compromising sources or the story; and provides that outlet will work in good faith to resolve any such problems. 
  • Provides freelancer input on the proofs, including headlines, though not approval or final decision.  
  • Provides that freelancer may request that byline be removed.  
  • To avoid confusion and reduce an outlet’s workload in vetting a key reporting issue, clarifies in advance the standards for the use of anonymous sources (e.g., anonymous, unknown, on background). 

Credit

  • Provides that freelancer will otherwise be credited in all forms in which the story is published or broadcast.  

Note: The FIRE Contract Template can be used as a substitute contract or a source for revisions of existing contracts, but it does not constitute legal advice. Reporters are responsible for their own liability and their own contract negotiations. 

To request access to a pro bono attorney for specific contract-related inquiries, visit FIRE's Legal Consultancy.

To learn more on the Template highlights below, contact application@firenewsroom.org.