Thursday, 16 December 2010

Who do you think you're kidding, Mister Bauer?

A writer in London receives a letter in the post from a man in Germany. 

Actually, it isn't a letter but a 'Commission Agreement', a kind of contract, where the publisher demands that the recipient writer signs up "to abide by the terms of the agreement". 

Heinrich Bauer Verlag, the publisher, did not personally lick the stamp and post the envelope. A hired UK-based minion, simply obeying the German magazine publisher's orders, must've mailed it.

Two of Bauer's 17 clauses particularly reek. Paragraph 5, for instance, pongs: "By signing and returning this agreement to us, you irrevocably and unconditionally assign to us in perpetuity...the entire copyright and all other rights and title of any kind that you have in the Commissioned Works throughout the world...".
Decoded, this legal jargon means Bauer magazines might no longer commission writers until they sign away their entire copyright. Bauer will be able to make money by re-selling the material but writers won't get a penny.

The same Bauer para ends with a 'cling on' sub-clause. "You hereby irrevocably waive any and all moral rights you have in the Commissioned Works." Translated, writers won't be able to ensure their name credit, or by-line, goes on any syndicated stories.

Bauer's Paragraph 12 'pen and inks' too. "You will indemnify us from all claims, proceedings, costs, losses, expenses and liabilities arising from...the Commissioned Works." This humdinger means the writer will be liable if Bauer is sued because of an article  - even though the writer no longer owns 'their' article.

Ironically, a Hamburg court ruled the above intimidating provisions were illegal in Germany. But that hasn't stopped Bauer trying to impose these terms on freelance writers and photographers in the UK where duress still seems acceptable. 

More than 200 UK writers and photographers are hopping mad with Herr Bauer, whose company bought a swathe of EMAP titles in the UK including Bella, Take A Break, Motor Cycle News, Kerrang!MojoQ, and Rail.
Coralled by the London Freelance Branch of the National Union of Journalists, the scribes and snappers signed a protest statement, asking: "Will Bauer's magazines sell more copies if they push these contracts through, so losing the services of many of their most expert, reliable and popular contributors?" 
Our recipient London writer put this exact question to Bauer but no company representative responded.

Of course, we live in hard times; some writers feel they've no choice but to shut up and sign. Our writer, a contributor to Bauer's EMAP titles for over five years, curiously noticed the 'Commission Agreement' came with no stated deadline by which to sign. 
Bauer's countersignatory is an illegible squiggle with no printed name to identify the responsible company officer. 
There's also no covering explanatory letter nor a stamped addressed envelope.

Without a return address, our London writer can't yet act on their first instinct, to return the 'Agreement' - unsigned  - with only a short but sweet attached note advising Bauer, "Please insert your Agreement in a place where solar radiation no longer permeates."

Paul Coleman, London, December 2010.

Photo: Courtesy of Snug As A Bug Images.

Monday, 6 December 2010

The Shard reaches for London's sky: PhotoWatch

I couldn't resist pointing the Canon at the sunlight flaring off the cobbles of St Mary at Hill. The ever-rising Shard loomed over the City of London street like a Martian machine from War of the Worlds.
  I'll keep a watching photographic brief on the Shard at London Bridge Quarter. Architect Renzo Piano's 87-floor 'vertical city' is clambering into London's skyscape from its London Bridge foundations at an average rate of three metres per day. 
  Will the Shard become an iconic new London building, such as the Gherkin or the London Eye? Or just another modern weird edifice like City Hall? Perhaps, the Shard's 72nd floor public viewing gallery will convince Londoners and tourists this is the tower to visit.

Piano says masts of ships docked in the Pool of London and Monet's paintings of the Houses of Parliament inspired the Shard's conceptual design (see above photo of HMS Belfast in front of the Shard. Look at the radar mast; so that's how Piano tinkled up the idea!).
  Full construction started on 16 March, 2009. When completed, the £435 million Shard will stand as Western Europe's largest building at 310 metres (1,016 feet) high. 
  Even now, with its concrete core not yet completed, Piano's creation is now Britain's tallest building, surpassing the 235m (773ft) Canada Tower at Canary Wharf in late November (The Canada Tower is the pointed building at the far right of the masthead at the top of this page).
  The next two images (below) were taken from Tower Pier, next to the Tower of London. (Click on images to enlarge).

Piano's angled glass cladding is already creeping up around the steel and concrete core. Piano hopes the glass will give the Shard a delicate, slender appearance, reflecting light in different ways as the seasons change - just like a shard of glass. 
  The Shard's 130,000 square metres of floorspace will comprise offices, a hotel, restaurants and apartments. The viewing gallery will be 240m above street level. 
  Some 5,500 cubic metres of concrete were poured during a 36-hour period to create the raft on which the Shard sits. About 1,000 tons of reinforced steel were set into the concrete raft.
  Weeks ago, the Shard reached higher than the 180m (590ft) Swiss Re building or Gherkin.
Just how tall will the Shard feel? A good marker is when your viewing pod reaches the top point of the London Eye's revolution, a height of 136m (425ft). Another yardstick is the top of the Wembley Stadium arch, a height of 133m.
  The Shard replaces Southwark Towers, the former home of Pricewaterhouse Coopers.
 The developer is the Sellar Group on behalf of LBQ Limited. Mace are the main building contractor. Renzo Piano is the conceptual architect. Detailed architectural work has been carried out by Adamson Associates.

 It mightn't yet be everyone's cup of tea but, as you can see below, the Shard seems to  impress the birds.

Photos copyright of Paul Coleman. Not to be re-published without permission.

Paul Coleman, London, December 2010.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

From Russia with smug

FIFA president Sepp Blatter uttered one bitterly disappointing word, "Russia". Suddenly, for the two hundred sturdy souls standing outside London's City Hall, the biting wind felt bitterly cold.

We'd braced ourselves against the toe-curling, chilled wind for about 45 minutes in the Scoop, the mini-amphitheatre outside City Hall, waiting to cheer England to the snowy skies for winning the FIFA vote to stage the 2018 World Cup. Only World Cup Willie (above) looked toastily warm. Sadly, Russia beat England surprisingly (?!)... easily in the Zurich poll.

Strangely, even as Blatter dithered, fiddled and then finally opened the hideous envelope, we all still believed England remained in the hunt. We didn't know England had earlier received only two of 22 votes in a first round vote.

So, despite the cheery presence of famous footballers Peter Crouch (below) and David Ginola (below Crouchy), England's ambitions to host the greatest show on earth melted faster than any of the snowflakes flurrying around our earholes.
The bizarre, opaque vote left us all bitterly cold, bitterly disappointed and with a bitter cheated taste in our mouths.

Click on photos to enlarge.

Photos copyright: Paul Coleman. Not to be re-used without permission.

Paul Coleman, London, December 2010.