Online only

US Supreme court to hear copyright case

THE US Supreme Court announced on 4 March that it has agreed to review a ruling by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which had invalidated a settlement of a global class action copyright infringement suit on behalf of freelance journalists against the combined newspaper and periodical industries and their electronic database partners - as one of those journalists, wrestling writer Irv Muchnik, puts it.

Mouthful? You bet.

In the beginning, in 1995 writers and writers' organisations sued the New York Times and other publishers for selling their work, via online databases, without a licence. The case went up to the US Supreme Court. The writers won, in June 2001.

Some writers' organisations proposed a deal with the publishers, worth $18 million before extracting legal fees. Some publishers and online database owners piled on board, without increasing the settlement total.

Some individual writers objected, saying the net $11 million was far too little - maybe it should be several billion dollars. They said the proposed deal was unfairly skewed toward writers who had registered their work with the US Register of Copyright (fee: US$35 and up).

Back to court, then. The objectors won in November 2007. But not the way they wanted. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals, throwing out the proposed settlement, said that the federal courts have no jurisdiction over settlements involving copyrights not formally registered with the US Copyright Office.

That would exclude many US freelances - and almost all authors outside the USA. ("Authors" in legal terminology includes lyricists, poets, crossword compilers and photographers.)

The publishers and the objectors were at last agreed: this last ruling was bonkers.

It is, however, the US Supreme Court that decides what lower court rulings are legally bonkers in the US. So back the case goes. There's no date yet.

2 March 2010

The Supreme Court has ruled on Tasini, again: the Settlement can include non-registered works. Back to the Second Circuit court of appeals, then...

13 April 2011

Heee's back - Jonathan Tasini is prominent among those suing Arianna Huffington and America Online for $105 million, reckoning their unpaid work generated about a third of the value of the Huffington Post site.

See here.

13 April 2011

The Tasini objectors' latest move is to point out to the courts the similarities between the Tasini settlement and the Google Books settlement, rejected on 22 March: see

Last modified: 5 Mar 2009 - © 2009 contributors
The Freelance editor is elected by London Freelance Branch and responsibility for content lies solely with the editor of the time
Send comments to the editor: