Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Objection Project Starts

My project to raise questions about the preliminary settlement in the copyright class action is now officially a project to object to the settlement. The deadline for filing objections to the court is July 15. The final approval and "fairness hearing" is set for July 28 in the New York courtroom of Judge George B. Daniels.

In order to object, a class member must appear in person on July 28. I think that's an unconscionable burden and a violation of due process, especially in view of the fact that claim awards can be as low as $5. At last week's hearing on our motion to vacate the preliminary settlement, my attorney, Charles Chalmers, showed Judge Daniels his round-trip plane ticket from California and other expenses related to his appearance there, which added up to well over $500. That is just the tip of the iceberg of the expenses a class member must incur in order to register an objection from across the country -- or across the world.

Attorney Chalmers appeared on my behalf at the May 24 hearing and will do so again at the July 28 hearing. I'm actively soliciting other class members who are interested in joining this effort to overturn a very bad settlement for freelance writers and for the public. We'll be posting further details here shortly. (Of course you can post a comment on this blog immediately or email me directly at info@muchnick.net.) In a nutshell:

* The settlement fund is appallingly low -- $10-to-$18-million.

* Individual claim awards ($1,500 for an infringement of a work with a pre-registered copyright; as little as $5 for others; the distinct possibility that many infringed authors will get nothing) would set a terrible precedent.

* The release of future claims is so broad and vague that, if approved by the court, there will be no ability to use new technologies to level the playing field in 21st century publishing.


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