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
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.