Friday, May 20, 2005

New And Improved FreelanceRights.Com Query Page

I've been having a lot of fun at the expense of my old friends at the National Writers Union, the Authors Guild, and the American Society of Journalists and Authors, whose "informational" website about the $10-to-$18-million copyright class action preliminary settlement has been somewhat less than informative. In recent days the open query page seemed to collapse completely, after lagging far behind in answering invited questions.

But I''m happy to report that has just put up a freshly designed query page and waded into the backlog. I'm still not satisfied with the answers but at least they're showing a pulse.

Now listed at the very top of the queries is a cheeky question, posted by your humble blogger, about when we can expect to get some answers. Mr. or Ms. Query replies evenly, "We have responded to most of the new questions and will respond to others in the next two days. Thank you for your patience." Fair enough.

True to our mission, we'll be studying these new answers, as well as the newer ones that presumably will be served up over the weekend, and providing analysis whenever that seems called for.

For right now, one key new theme jumps out at me. To its credit, takes on two blunt and direct questions about the new-generation infringer HighBeam. The boilerplate language on which the associational plaintiffs have settled is: " is not a party to the Settlement and nothing in this litigation or the Settlement permits to infringe freelance works. If your works appeared in any publication on the List of Publications on the website, then you can and should submit claims for those works because their inclusion on the List of Publications means they appeared in a defendant database and are eligible for compensation. However, the defendant databases, including ProQuest, do not have the right under the Settlement to re-license works that are eligible under the Settlement to any third parties such as It is important to document the fact that your works appear on and to register your copyright to those works. "

Though I first have to consult with higher legal authorities, such as Tony La Russa, before coming to a firm conclusion, I read this passage to be agreeing with my contention that HighBeam (as well as have infringed my 1988 Washington Monthly article, whose copyright I registered in 1999, and that these companies cannot use as a defense that they licensed the material from defendants in the class action, such as Thomson/Gale and ProQuest. What's not clear is whether that's just the politically correct opinion of the authors organizations, or whether it's a plain provision of the preliminary settlement.

If my interpretation of their interpretation is correct, then HighBeam and FindArticles are on the hook for statutory damages and attorneys' fees, for me and who knows how many dozens, scores, hundreds, or thousands of others.


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