Thursday, May 12, 2005

What's So Magical About 12/31/02?

The settlement agreement for the consolidated copyright class action (which has been preliminarily approved by the court -- a step I'm currently asking the judge to rescind) provides that any claim for an infringement of a work not registered by December 31, 2002, will be regarded as a Category C (unregistered) claim for purposes of the settlement. Category C claims would pay $5 to $60. Category A (registered) claims would pay up to $1,500.

Why? What's the significance of the December 31, 2002, cutoff date? If there's a legal or practical reason for this provision, it must be explained. But if there's a hidden agenda, that's something else -- something that must be aggressively explored as part of the settlement approval process.

The "associational plaintiffs" (the National Writers Union, the Authors Guild, and the American Society of Journalists and Authors) set up a website,, to disseminate information about the settlement. There's a page on which queries are invited. The queries appear to be duly posted, at least in most cases, but many have remained unanswered for weeks. One such query is mine about the 12/31/02 question (fourth or fifth from the top).

Yesterday this matter became more urgent when I discovered that my 1988 article in The Washington Monthly -- whose copyright I registered in 1999 -- was just "blocked" from full-text access at FindArticles, a recently risen article delivery service. It's reasonable to conclude that FindArticles (which is owned by the operator of the LookSmart search engine and has a relationship of some sort with Thomson/Gale, a defendant in the consolidated class action) took this measure as a result of my public project to raise questions about the fairness of the preliminary settlement, and specifically because of the facts presented to the court in my declaration in support of my motion to vacate. (See the documents at

So I raise the title question of this post -- which originally was projected as next Monday's "Settlement Question of the Week" -- today.

I also invite other freelance writers who are similarly situated to contact me. I'll assist in investigating the history of the availability of your works on for-profit databases without your permission. I've been doing this for 11 years, ever since I organized a writers union campaign we called "Operation Magazine Index." My email address is


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