On June 11, Dow Jones announced that it is revising its policy on books written by Wall Street Journal reporters and editors, including having to secure an appropriate licensing agreement to use their reporting in their books. According to IAPE Local 1096, the union to which WSJ news personnel belong, the new rule requires staff writers to seek permission from management to write any book before even sending a proposal or engaging in talks with a literary agent, publisher, or production company. In other words, news staff now need permission from their bosses to even discuss the possibility of authoring a book.
“We have several concerns about the policy, which appears to depart from industry standards, and believe the company cannot lawfully impose it on its own,” read the statement posted on IAPE’s website. “We will have more to say later, but for now, know this: We intend to fight this attempt to unilaterally change the terms of our employment.”
According to IAPE, it learned in late March that Dow Jones intended to seek revisions and expansions of its policies on external projects. In April, the union raised a series of questions about a draft document presented by the company, meeting with company officials on April 22. In May, the company presented IAPE with a further revised proposed policy that further expanded rights provided to management and failed to address a single question the union previously raised. IAPE requested additional discussion with management over the policy, but instead, Dow Jones announced the new policy to staff without notifying the union.
As the largest and oldest nonprofit association representing the rights of published U.S. book authors, including journalists, the Authors Guild denounces Dow Jones’s new policy and stands with IAPE in its efforts to overturn this new policy.
At a time when American newspapers are shedding jobs all over the country, letting go a record 16,100 journalists in 2020, for Dow Jones to seek to profit at the expense of employees’ independent creation by requiring the authors to secure a license to write their own words is reprehensible. Creating such a policy seems designed to skirt around well-established law that stipulates that works created outside of the scope of employment are not “works made for hire,” and that the rights to those works belong to their authors. It is crucial for journalists, who are notoriously underpaid, even more so today, to have the ability to earn money outside of their employment at the WSJ. Writing books has always been a way for journalists to supplement their income; this new policy robs them of their ability to do so. We find management’s actions particularly odious, given that, unlike most of the newspaper industry, both the WSJ and its parent company saw a huge rise in circulation last year with the WSJ securing more than two million digital subscribers for the first time.
Please add your name below to let Dow Jones management know that this new policy is unacceptable. We will send the signed document to the CEO and GC at Dow Jones.
We, the undersigned, as journalists, authors, and readers, are outraged by Dow Jones’s new policy that quashes WSJ journalists’ opportunities to write and publish books independently of their work. We demand you work with IAPE to re-examine this policy.