Monday, May 31, 2004

freelancing for free

Every freelancer's had the experience. You sculpt a pitch for a brilliant story on a hot new entrepreneur, an amazing artist, a trend as yet undiscovered by the foreign press, and you get the dread response: That's a terrific idea, and ordinarily we'd snap it right up, but unfortunately one of our staff writers suggested the same story sometime back. Great minds think alike. Please keep us in mind blah blah blah blah.

You always wonder: Did somebody really suggest your idea before you did, or is this just the business finding another way to screw you?

But here's an interesting twist. What if down the road, when the publication you approached with your idea prints its story, you find the writer's lifted sentences almost verbatim from your pitch? That's adding insult to injury, isn't it? Or, rather, plagiarism to piracy? What if the same pub does it to you twice?

Of course nobody'd be fool enough to name names. There'd be no way to prove when and if you sent your pitch--not easily & cheaply anyway--and the most you could expect would be a grim apology and a swift demotion to the publication's blacklist. But has it happened to you? I'm interested in any juicy stories from freelancers who believe somebody turfed them out of a story...especially if they have convincing evidence.

Hey, we're not talking a court of law here, though. Vicious rumor and innuendo will suit me fine. Freelancing ain't supposed to be free.

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