THE LANDMARK lawsuit over freelances' copyright in the USA is to go to the Supreme Court. On 6 November the Court announced that it would hear an appeal by publishers and database companies including Newsday, Time Incorporated, Lexis-Nexus and The New York Times.
Back in December 1993 members of the US National Writers Union sued over unauthorised and unpaid use and sale of their work online. In August 1997 a District Judge found against the six plaintiffs on some counts, concluding that electronic databases were "revisions" of newspapers and covered by a clause apparently intended to make it easier to update dictionaries. In September 1999 the regional Appeals Court held that this "cannot be squared with the basic canons of statutory construction" - widely read as judge-speak for "is barking".
NWU President Jonathan Tasini commented: "We are sure the Supreme Court will support the Appeals Court ruling that was fair and clear in upholding the constitutional principle of copyright as a tool to protect individual authors."
See Branch Motions December 2000