Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Be Sure to Help Us in Our Mission of Screwing Authors by Completing Your Authors Coalition Survey

Just when I think it’s become a tired trope to bemoan the breathtaking -- and ultimately self-serving -- incompetence of the authors’ organizations, they drop another unsolicited straight line into my inbox.

This week’s is a mass email from the National Writers Union with the subject line “Alert to Published Members on Upcoming Authors Coalition Survey.” The full text:

Dear Fellow NWU member:

In the next few days you will be receiving a letter that is extremely important to you and your union. It will explain the annual Authors Coalition survey, which will be enclosed. The number of responses to the survey determines the amount of funding that the union will receive from the Coalition this coming year. Last year we received $430,963.04.

Your early response is crucial. Your union depends on your response to this survey to generate the funds that keep the Union’s services to you functioning even though the NWU, like most unions, has suffered from declining membership dues.Please don’t delay. Take a moment and fill out the survey and send it back in the enclosed self-addressed NWU envelope.

Thanks so much.

In solidarity,

Gerard Colby
National Writers Union

First of all, I haven’t been a member of the NWU since 2001, so I have no idea what I’m doing on the recipient list. (Nor did the union respond to my query about this.)

But that’s a decidedly secondary irony. The real howler here is that the NWU is doing extraordinary outreach in this case to get its members to help “your union” keep its “services to you functioning.”

Services, one supposes, like botching copyright class action settlements. Not only did the recent $10-to-$18-million settlement -- which we are appealing to the Second Circuit -- come in at pennies on the dollar, if not fractions of a penny, of its real value. Not only did it screw the 99% of class members who are in Category C. Not only did it attempt to codify an unconstitutional "License by Default." It also had such rushed, hush-hush, mixed-message communications that an appallingly small number of affected writers knew about it, and fewer still were motivated to do anything about it.

I don’t recall ever receiving a similar email from Jerry Colby, for example, alerting members to the settlement. I do recall a series of tortured press releases and kaleidoscopic website sales pitches for filing claims that were so riddled with errors and distortions that they were sent back to rewrite more than any magazine piece Colby ever wrote (for which, of course, he too would be entitled to a $5 claim award under the UnSettlement).

The most recent ex post facto “alert” was discussed on this blog a few weeks ago: "NWU: Wake Us Up When September Ends,” Reference to this item subsequently was removed from the NWU website, though the link in our blog post to the item itself still appears to be good.

What, I ask, is the purpose of authors’ advocacy associations that make a big deal out of the Authors Coalition -- essentially a vehicle for passing the hat around to foreign publishers who have reused American writers’ works, and giving the proceeds of their bake sale to the organizations -- while dropping the ball on the most important legal confrontation defining the rights of their members, and writers everywhere, in the new digital age?

Monday, December 12, 2005

Holiday Comic Relief: Google’s Crack Italian Translation Software

Search Google for “Tasini and Muchnick” and down the list you’ll get “Il caso Tasini: dopo la sentenza” (

The following is Google’s instant translation from the Italian.

The Tasini case: after the sentence

The next November the Internet Librarian Conference 2001 will be kept to Pasadena, between the participations one entitled session "THE TASINI DECISION: The End of Full Text as We Know It " Organized from the Southern California Online Users Group (SCOUG) .

The supreme court of the United States has decided in the cause on the Tasini case to favor of the publicists free-nozzles: editori and producers of bases give to you have smashed the law on the copyright, rendering accessible the articles of the writers professionals, already publish to you to press, in one base give to you electronic without the permission of the authors. Which will be the consequences of this sentence on the market of the information electronic?

The decision of the court leaves in fact a number of still unsolved issues, than they will not lack having important strascichi ( ).
Many producers of bases give to you have begun to eliminate articles of the publicists free-nozzles from the bases give to you, but if the perspective is not succeeded to find an agreement is for the publicists free-nozzles to lose an important occasion, their jobs in fact come eliminate to you from the "historical archives" and the consumers will have a information less and less complete. The New York Times Co has announced, as an example, that they have been eliminates from the base give to you Lexis-Nexis to you beyond 115.000 articles, the articles eliminates to you still appears as it turns out you of a search, because it indexes from the base give to you to you, but are not more available.

We signal some interesting articles appeared on the last numbers of Information Today and on The Charleston Advisor on the Tasini case, that they analyze to the aspects lawyers, the implications trade them and the possible scenes of the world of the information electronic, I offend possible solutions in order protect consumers, editori, producers of bases give and authors to you: like "surviving" to a sentence that risks otherwise to being a battle in which all the protagonists have something to lose.

Carol Ebbinghouse. Tasini Houses Final Decision: Authors Win. "Information Today". Volume 18, Issue 8 - September 2001 .

Quint Barbarian. Let' s Stop the Trash Trucks . "Information Today". Volume 18, Issue 8 - September 2001. Page 8

George H. Pike. Understanding and Surviving Tasini. Here is an analysis of what the Supreme Court did and didn' t say . "Information Today". Volume 18, Issue 9 - October 2001. .

Irvin Muchnick. Publish and Perish: Confronting the Post-Tasini World. "The Charleston Advisor". September 2001. .

While an other sentence joins to the sentence on the Tasini case: 9 October the Supreme Court of the United States has rejected to the question of appeal of the National Geographic Society against the photographers free-nozzles.In past March in fact the Appeals Court in the cause Jerry Greenberg and Idaz Greenberg against National Geographic Society, National Geographic Enterprises, Inc., and Mindscape, given Inc.aveva reason to free-nozzles.The publishing group had smashed the right of copyright using in the version on CD ROM the photographies of free-nozzles, without to ask of a specific authorization( ).

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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Fight Continues in Canada, Too

Heather Robertson's nearly-decade-old case against the Toronto Globe and Mail -- the Canadian counterpart to Tasini v. New York Times -- will be heard today by the Canadian Supreme Court. See:

Monday, December 05, 2005

Tasini's Times They Are A-Changing

Jonathan Tasini has announced his Democratic primary challenge, on an antiwar platform, to the reelection of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Some of us hold no brief for Senator Clinton, or even necessarily for her support of Bush's war. We do, however, have a passing familiarity with Tasini's record as president of the National Writers Union, as catalyst of the landmark lawsuit Tasini v. New York Times, and as all-purpose blowhard who helped snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in that case by co-piloting the recently approved -- and objected to and appealed -- class action copyright settlement.

The settlement, involving pretty much the entire newspaper, periodical, and electronic database industries, and their blatant and willful piracy of freelance authors' works across several decades, could total as little as $10 million before the deduction of attorneys' fees and costs. Under the settlement if upheld, the most frequent claim award for an individual infringement almost certainly will be a whopping $5. The settlement also sanctions an unprecedented "license by default" by all who filed claims; by all who deliberately didn't, because it would be more cost-effective to sell Fuller Brushes door-to-door; and by the overwhelming majority of the tens of thousands of class members worldwide whose response would be, "What class action copyright settlement?"

Way to show the corporate bosses, Jonathan!

As for the voters of New York State, I respectfully suggest that they consider Tasini for an office more appropriate to his level of gravitas: Emir of Shmoe.