Saturday, July 02, 2005

Not Just a Sellout -- A Giveaway

The $10-to-$18-million copyright class action settlement is really a $6.5-million-to-$11.7-million settlement. That's because only 65% of the claims awards is dedicated to compensating authors for past infringements. The other 35% is discretionary, meaning that a claimant will receive it only if he/she also grants a license to the defendants and participating publishers for continued future reuse of the infringed work.

Right now National Writers Union grievance and contract officers are flailing about as they try to design advice to members on how to handle this provision. Giving away future rights -- which the "acquiescent license" essentially does -- goes against every position paper and negotiating principle promulgated by the NWU and the other two "associational plaintiffs," the Authors Guild and the American Society of Journalists and Authors.

But they can't help it. The settlement agreement ties their hands:

Neither [the Associational Plaintiffs] nor the Representative Plaintiffs will undertake actions intended to encourage class members to opt out of the Class, exercise the removal right provided in paragraph 5(a) above, or otherwise undermine the Settlement Agreement. [emphasis added]

As long as they were going to sign off on this ridiculous settlement, it makes sense that the associations would agree not to undermine it. But why are they restricted from giving writers advice on exercising their right to withhold future rights in return for reduced claim awards? This takes an open-ended provision of the settlement and makes the associations the coercive agents of the defendants in procuring content.

It's just one more example of why the NWU, the AG, and ASJA should be ashamed of themselves for first cutting this deal and then attempting to sell it as some kind of authors' rights triumph.

2 Comments:

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2:16 PM  
Anonymous publishers said...

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9:33 PM  

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