Sunday, July 31, 2005

Objecting and Opting Out

A mini-correction to our report on Thursday’s hearing in New York. The independent objector who spoke was not an objector but someone who chose to opt out of the settlement. His name, I believe, is Francis Hammett. (That may not be the right spelling.)

This gives me an opportunity to explain the difference between objecting and opting out. Our general advice to writers is to object, because the settlement is such an awful sellout, because the paperwork isn’t worth the trouble for the tiny $5-to-$60 claim awards for the vast, vast majority of the infringements, and because the “future license by default” provision will bury the possibility of freelance writers’ being able to leverage new technologies in their own interests for at least a generation.

But if you have a number of “Category A” claims (infringements of works whose copyrights were registered before the infringements), then opting out could be your best move. The claim awards for A’s, topping out at $1,500, are also insultingly lousy. (In the UnCover class action, the equivalent of A’s got $30,000 each.) Opting out preserves your right to sue the class action defendants on your own.

In addition, there’s a provision that says the defendants can blow up the settlement if opt-outs reach a certain threshold. And what is that threshold? Why, it’s secret ... of course!


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