Thursday, 2 August 2012

David Hoffman versus Freedom Press

Many years ago Five Leaves predecessor, Old Hammond Press, published a pamphlet by Colin Ward called Housing is Freedom, Housing is Theft. It sold 1,000 copies, mainly through the network of radical bookshops and to people in the housing sector, by which I don't mean Bovis Homes. The pamphlet was reviewed in a major architectural journal which, unfortunately for Old Hammond Press, reprinted a cartoon from the pamphlet. The cartoon had been found, literally, in the bottom of a drawer, having been clipped, put away, rediscovered years later and stuck down (this was the era of paste and letraset) to brighten up the text. There was no identifiable artist signature and the 'toon could have come from anywhere. But the cartoonist was a reader of that architectural journal and sent OHP a large bill for the illicit use of his work. He was not mollified by the story of how the 'toon ended up in the pamphlet, nor that it was impossible for us to have known who the artist had been to try to ask for permission. Eventually we settled for a fraction of what he wanted but much more than a small pamphlet publisher could afford.
I was reminded of this because of the current dispute between David Hoffman and Freedom Press. Freedom published a book called Beating the Fascists which included photographs provided by the author. Unfortunately some of these were recent photographs taken not by the author but by David Hoffman - in copyright and printed without credit or permission. Freedom had assumed that the photos were by the author or one of his colleagues in the organisation Anti-Fascist Action, the subject of the book. Legally they were in the wrong, even if in ignorance and David Hoffman asked for payment for his work. I am not party to the discussions between the two parties, nor do I want to be. I've read Freedom off and on for almost forty years and have written for it occasionally. I have many books published by the anarchist Freedom Press. I've seen many David Hoffman photographs over the years and have included some in a recent book, with permission and giving credit. I respect the work of both parties. Freedom's view is presented here:, David Hoffman's published view has not, has been limited only to partial quotes from emails by those attacking him. Whatever the rights and wrongs, the outcome is that Freedom has paid David Hoffman £4000, which they say is putting their paper at risk.
David Osler, a fellow NUJ member, has publicly called for David to refund the money. A few seconds on-line will show that both Freedom and David Hoffman share an interest in combating the far right and police excesses, are in favour of trade unions and in support of press freedom. Indeed, David Hoffman was once arrested for having an anarchist poster in his window.
Surely this could have been resolved differently.
But it is also a reminder to ourselves and other small presses to check copyright on anything in our books.

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