Writers & Photographers Exempt From California Freelance Law

California's AB 2257 has given content creators relief from the California freelance law created by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez. See what's changed and for whom.

AB 2257 relieves more creatives from the burden of the California freelance law. // Image by: Markus Spiske

Writers and photographers are among the contractors finally freed from the California freelance law, also known as AB 5.

On September 4, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB 2257, providing exemptions from AB 5 for about two dozen professions, including freelance editors, photojournalists, photo editors, and digital content aggregators.

AB 5 was originally supposed to be focused on preventing ride-hailing companies, like Uber and Lyft, from misclassifying employees as freelancers.

But Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez lost focus and drafted a super-broad bill that tried to regulate almost all independent contracting.

In addition to rolling back rules, such as how many submissions a writer or photographer can make to a publication, AB 2257 also unsaddled freelancers from the ABC test.

See: What the ABC Test entails and details of AB 5

Now, media freelancers are governed by the Borello test, allowing people to conduct their freelance business as long as:

  • The freelancer and client have a contract with the rate of pay, time of payment, and intellectual property rights.
  • The freelancer doesn’t primarily work at the client’s business location.
  • The client doesn’t hire the freelancer for work that would replace an employee with the same workload, and the client doesn’t prevent the freelancer from working for others.

AB 2257 also says that the Borello test applies to contracts between sole proprietors or businesses that agree to services at single-engagement events, as long as both parties are free from control and direction and operate independently.

AB 2257 took effect immediately.

Gonzalez’ California Freelance Law

Gonzalez claims she drafted AB 5 “for the purpose of creating a consistent definition for employment.”

Regardless of her intention, she lost sight of the original issue—drivers for hire—and whipped up a haphazard, arbitrary bundle of wreckless regulations.

And freelancers paid the price.

People lost their contracts. Companies refused to work with California freelancers. And freelancers who were doing just fine before Gonzalez’ un-grand ideas faced unnecessary financial hardship that overlapped the financial devastation of the pandemic.

In addition to having ulterior motives, I believe Gonzalez was out to make a name for herself. She alone would draft thee California freelance law, a body of legislation regulating nearly every type of independent contracting.

In trying to regulate nearly all independent contracting in one 15-page bill (in PDF format with really wide margins) Gonzalez exposed how supremely ignorant she really was.

What she will forever be known for around these parts is not knowing what the hell she was doing. For creating a foolish concoction, slapping her family name on it, and waiting for praise that will never be forthcoming.

AB 5 was definitely successful at some things, such as sparking controversy, backlash, protests, and lawsuits.

In a matter of months, over 100 exemptions have been provided because the legislation isn’t fitting for the professions it tried to cover.

And Proposition 22  will be on the ballot in California this fall, giving voters say over whether to exempt app companies, such as Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash.

Imagine being known for legislation that ends up putting unnecessary, burdensome regulations on innocent bystanders. Meanwhile,  your original targets drive around exempt, scoffing at you.

That’s the legacy Gonzalez is facing–complete failure.

But she’s got gall because she’s sticking with the fuckery.

AB 2257 is clearly a clean-up method after a disaster. But instead of admitting that’s she’s correcting mistakes, Gonzalez said she’s building.

This latest legislation “builds upon the standards already established in AB 5,” her factsheet says.

Obviously, Gonzalez didn’t get to this point without co-signers.  The California freelance bill passed through the legislature. It was signed into law.

I think that says a lot about California legislators and what they think of freelancers.

I don’t believe that any one legislator could have sat down and wrote a sweeping yet scant bill that impacted all employees—those with non-profits, those in unions, those in the legislature—and got it on the books so easily.

To me, California’s freelance law was imposed with an air of arrogance and disregard that suggests Gonzalez and other legislators thought they were dealing with a disjointed collection of low to no-power voters.

Gonzalez and her supporters were cavalier with freelancers’ livelihoods. Cavalier to a negligent, and therefore inexcusable degree.

I’m not a California resident, but I’m a freelancer, and I’m outraged and insulted along with California freelancers.

When it’s time to cast votes for California legislators, especially Gonzalez, I hope AB 5 will be at the forefront of freelancers’ minds, and I hope they’ll show we aren’t to be played with.

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2 Comments

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    Unwanted Life

    I unfortunately don’t know anything about the bill or how freelancing works in the US in general. I can certainly relate to a politician pushing something they know little about to the detriment to regular folks, as every country suffers that. If the bill was so bad for freelancers, how did it become law in the first place?

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