An open letter to Los Angeles Times management about its intellectual property proposals


We, the undersigned journalists of the Los Angeles Times, write to protest a proposed company policy on intellectual property that would mark a new low in the newspaper industry — and potentially limit our staff’s long-standing contributions to literary and creative life in the United States.

The newsroom has been bargaining in good faith with management on a first contract for months. While some disagreements remain, we’re proud to work for a publication that recognizes newsrooms need investment, not cuts, to survive.

But late in negotiations, the company has proposed a draconian policy on books and other creative projects that, as a condition of employment, would go far beyond the work-for-hire standards of U.S. copyright law and the relicensing practices historically allowed by The Times.

If we have a book idea related to our work, even if fictional, the company wants unfettered power to claim control over whether it gets written, who owns the copyright and what we might get paid for it. The company also wants to claim the film rights to such books even if the company grants permission for the book to be written, on unpaid leave, for an outside publisher.

No other newspaper has contract language this strict — not the New York Times, Washington Post or the Wall Street Journal. This is especially inappropriate, coming as it does from the Los Angeles Times, which runs the highly popular L.A. Times Festival of Books and has a proud history of employing journalists who have made significant contributions to the literary community.

Michael Connelly, the bestselling author, created the character of LAPD Detective Hieronymus Bosch while working as a crime reporter for The Times. Columnist Steve Lopez developed “The Soloist,” a close-up account of homelessness in Los Angeles, based on his work as a metro columnist; his book later became a movie starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx. Former reporter Sonia Nazario based her critically acclaimed book “Enrique’s Journey” on the Pulitzer Prize-winning series on Central American immigration she wrote for The Times.

If these books didn’t exist, readers everywhere would be poorer for it. But under the company's proposal, these types of projects could fall within its control — and, most disturbingly, within its power to reject wholesale. The Times should encourage its employees to be ambitious, not empower lawyers to squat on copyrights. Moreover, the company's proposal to claim control over any work created by employees "within the scope of their employment" is unworkably vague, especially given the sweeping interpretations that company negotiators gave us at the bargaining table.

This is the age of Netflix, and the company has additionally asserted "rights to use employee names, likenesses, biographical information, etc.,” without requiring any consent from us, for any creative project it chooses to pursue, while obligating us to participate in its development. It’s the sort of thing that smacks of the Hollywood studio system of the 1930s, when studio executives controlled what movies their actors appeared in and with whom. There’s a reason that system came to an end.

We’re worried that such policies would not only drive away talented recruits who might be interested in working for The Times, but it might also perversely incentivize Times journalists to quit in order to develop projects.

As the L.A. Times enters a promising new era for journalism, we fear management’s restrictive proposal will directly harm the reputation of the institution and hinder the production of important creative and journalistic works in a city with a strong history of valuing and compensating writers. The company must change course.


Scott Martelle

Barbara Demick

Louis Sahagun

Michael Finnegan

Carolina A. Miranda

Patricia I. Escárcega

Christopher Knight

Bill Plaschke

Matt Pearce

Maria La Ganga

Chris Megerian

Mark Z. Barabak

James Queally

Joe Mozingo

Gerrick Kennedy

Bill Addison

Joel Rubin

Del Quentin Wilber

Bettina Boxall

Steve Lopez

Matt Hamilton

Robin Abcarian

Gustavo Arellano

Christopher Goffard

Brian van der Brug

Harriet Ryan

Alan Zarembo

Martina Ibanez-Baldor

Diana Marcum

Ben Oreskes

George Skelton

Michael Hiltzik

Thomas Curwen

Jeffrey Fleishman

Noah Bierman

Mark Swed

Jenn Harris

Jon Schleuss

Nathan Fenno

Jaweed Kaleem

Ben Brazil

Liam Dillon

Laura J. Nelson

Dakota Smith

Glenn Whipp

Kevin Crust

Paige Hymson

Colleen Shalby

Lauren Raab

Sarah Parvini

Mariel Garza

Jad El Reda

Evan Halper

Blake Hennon

Amy Kaufman

Steve Devol

Laura Newberry

Alexa Díaz

Jen Yamato

Nardine Saad

Andy Nguyen

Eli Stokols

David Willman

Anna Phillips

Denise Florez

Cindy Chang

Paige St. John

Joseph Serna

Jaclyn Cosgrove

Phil Willon

Cindy Carcamo

J. Brady McCollough

Paul Duginski

Luke Money

Christine Mai-Duc

Jessica Gelt

Hannah Fry

Doug Smith

Angel Jennings

Samantha Masunaga

Melanie Mason

Julia Sclafani

August Brown

Jenny Jarvie

Rong-Gong Lin II

Anthony Pesce

Makeda Easter

Alex Wigglesworth

Hugo Martin

Kristina Bui

Javier Panzar

Steve Eames

Robert Lloyd

Angela Jamison

Christopher Reynolds

Lance Pugmire

Sam Dean

Christie D’Zurilla

Jackie Calmes

Jim Puzzanghera

Sara Cardine

Andrew J. Campa

Anthony Clark Carpio

Maloy Moore

Matthew Fleischer

Betty Chavarria

Jessica Martinez

David Wharton

Janet Hook

Noam Levey

Lisa Boone

Brian Park

Carla Hall

Kevin Ueda

Emily Alpert Reyes

Jim Buzinski

Ruben Vives

Priya Krishnakumar

Doyle McManus

Bill Shaikin

Andrew Khouri

Reed Johnson

Melody Gutierrez

Andrew Greif

Lorraine Ali

An Amlotte

Kenneth Turan

Frank Shyong

Hailey Branson-Potts

Elsie Ramos

Maya Lau

Sonali Kohli

Jade Cuevas

Jason Clark

Ryan Faughnder

Judy Pryor

Bakr Muhammad

Deborah Vankin

Jan Molen

Deborah Netburn

Paul Pringle

Matt Cooper

Adam Elmahrek

Adam Tschorn

Carlos Santana

Chris Barton

Margot Roosevelt

Justin Chang

Andrea Castillo

Kim Christensen

David Montero

Alene Tchekmedyian

Vanessa Martínez

Eduardo M. Gonzalez

Faith E. Pinho

Nicole Santa Cruz

Paul Thornton

Josh Rottenberg

Mark Olsen

Gale Holland

Ashley Lee

Roger Vincent

Geoffrey Mohan

Victoria Hernandez

Tracy Brown

Allison Mann

Rubaina Azhar

Dan Santos

Carla Rivera

Mary Forgione

Richard Winton

Chris Erskine

Hamlet Nalbandyan

Raul Roa

Paul Ybarrondo

Jay L. Clendenin

Mark E. Potts

R. Marina Levario

Jazmine Ulloa

Patt Morrison

Anh Do

Kurtis Lee

Jennifer Haberkorn

Charles McNulty

Gerard Lim

Sammy Roth

Jose S. Mancia

Lucas Peterson

Allison Hong

Christina Schoellkopf

Anne Elisabeth Dillon

Rebecca Bryant

David Cloud

Stacy Perman

Marisa Gerber

Mary McNamara

Kirk D. McKoy

Kyle Kim

Daniel Miller

Lorena Elebee

Howard Blume

David Lazarus

Nita Lelyveld

Sarah Wire

Tracy Wilkinson

Molly O’Toole

Priscella Vega

Todd Martens

Mike DiGiovanna

Jeff Amlotte

Phi Do

David Savage

Scott Smeltzer

Dylan Hernandez

Brittny Mejia

Luis Sinco

Randall Roberts

Jessica Roy

Lila Seidman

Fidel Martinez

Danielle Parenteau Decker

Jeanette E. Marantos

Dorany Pineda

Suhauna Hussain

Dennis Brosterhous

Matt Ormseth

Jessica Chen

Meredith Blake

Mikael Wood

Steven Greenberg

Steve Saldivar

John Penner

Soudi Jimenez

Eduard Cauich

Sergio Burstein

Jose Mancia

Selene Rivera

Gerardo Alatriste

Helene Elliott

Jackeline Luna

Soumya Karlamangla

Andrea Roberson

Swetha Kannan

Elena Howe

Russ Mitchell

Alison Dingeldein

Dania Maxwell

Jevon Phillips

Amina Khan

Kelly Corrigan

Melissa Gomez

Sue Worrell

Dave Lewis

Kevin Leung

P.K. Daniel

Sam-Omar Hall

Kelcie Pegher

Jill-Marie Jones

Dan Woike

Jared Servantez

Nancy Rivera Brooks

Dwayne Rogers

Lee Rogers

Sean Greene

Wendy Fawthrop

Claire Hannah Collins

Yvonne Villarreal

Paul Feldman

Efrain Hernandez Jr.

Don Ragland

Dave Bowman

Victor Barajas

Johana Bhuiyan

Jessica Perez

John Scheibe

Ryan Menezes

Leila Miller

Calvin B. Alagot

Scott Wilson

Jerome Adamstein

Vincent Nguyen

Ellis Simani

Jeff Miller

Courtney Lewis

Al Seib

Jorge Castillo

Agnus Dei Farrant

Taryn Luna

Kerry Cavanaugh

Jack Dolan

Wendy Lee

Robert Greene

Jim Brooks

Tim Berger

Michael McGough

Robert Gauthier

Melissa Etehad

Michael A.W. Ottey

Randy Lewis

Richard Marosi

Sonaiya Kelley

Iris Lee

Alejandra Reyes-Velarde

Melody Petersen

Matt Stiles

Andrew T. Turner

Hillary Davis

Tony Barboza

Rosanna Xia

David Ng

Victoria Kim

Esmeralda Bermudez

Anita Chabria

Ben Poston

Susanne Rust