Do we have to remove an old columnist's writing from our site if he asks?

Published: Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Updated: Tuesday, July 27, 2010 15:07

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A former column writer is embarrassed by his old writing. He's demanding that we remove several of his old columns. Do we have to do this?
Maybe. Generally speaking, the creator of a work owns the copyright and gets to control how, where and when his work is used. Exceptions can exist in the following situations: (1) The writer was a regular "employee," meaning that he was compensated and treated like other employees (which probably means, at a minimum, he was paid at least minimum wage); (2) The writer was not an employee but was paid or otherwise fairly compensated for the columns with the understanding (preferably by means of a written license agreement) that your organization had an ongoing right to publish the work, or (3) Some other written agreement exists that clearly spells out the parties' understanding regarding your ongoing right to publish the material.
Because of the perpetual "shelf life" of online content and the nontraditional working relationship between student media organizations and student creators, it is important that the parties reach a fair and equitable agreement about future use of that content, preferably before any work is done.
For more information, check out the SPLC's Student Media Guide to Copyright Law.
Additionally, the SPLC has created a sample license agreement for use by students and student media organizations.


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