Meanwhile Back at the Publisher Ranch
Discussion of the settlement in the landmark lawsuit over unauthorized reuse of freelance authors' previously published newspaper and magazine articles.
Ladies and gentlemen, that’s shaping up as a very important date -- perhaps the first of several to come -- in the history of writers’ rights. Stay tuned.
The reason it’s important is that what the settlement parties have done in the last week shows that they’re in deep trouble with this vague and possibly low-balled preliminary settlement, and they know it.
Two new-generation online database operators, FindArticles and HighBeam, have blocked full-text access to my 1988 article for The Washington Monthly, “The [Thwak!] Deregulation of [Thump!] Pro Wrestling.” (The subtitle, for all you fellow scholars of junk culture, is “The bureaucrats behind Hulk Hogan.”)
The shenanigans surrounding the reuse of that work are at the center of my declaration in support of the motion to vacate. (See the court documents at our website, http://freelancerights.muchnick.net.) In 1999 I’d filed the requisite copyright registration, making me eligible under certain circumstances for not just “actual damages,” but also “statutory damages and attorneys’ fees.”
I’m also, via that article and others, a member of the A and/or B and/or C Categories of the class -- depending on how you interpret the settlement agreement, as well as on the ambiguities and discrepancies between the settlement agreement and the notice that’s about to be so breathlessly mailed out.
FindArticles and HighBeam aren’t the only continuing infringers. Some of the core defendants in the case have continued, brazenly, to infringe our works even as negotiations proceeded.
Negotiations that, in the absence of further supporting evidence -- which the preliminary settlement filings don’t provide -- arguably sell out past infringements for pennies on the dollar and simply give away our future rights.
Starting to get the picture?
All readers, of course, are invited to post comments on this blog or to email me privately at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On April 27, 2005, I filed a motion to vacate the preliminary settlement in a landmark lawsuit over unauthorized reuse of freelance authors' previously published newspaper and magazine articles. The full annnouncement and the court documents are at http://freelancerights.muchnick.net.
In order to handle the overwhelming response to this initiative, and to give it an indispensable element of interactivity, we’re now starting the FREELANCE RIGHTS blog. This is intended to be a “meeting place” for discussing the settlement. I’ll step in to answer questions as best I can.
It is important to note that I do not oppose the settlement. Rather, I have serious questions as to whether the preliminary settlement – recently announced by the National Writers Union, the Authors Guild, and the American Society of Journalists and Authors – is fair. Fair in total, and fair to each of the three groups categorized as having been infringed over the past decade or more. At this point we need substantially more information in order to answer those questions, and that is the relief we are asking from the court. In the meantime, it is a disgrace that infringement has continued unabated. Brand-new products have even sprung up while this case has dragged on – all earning money for the defendants and harming the plaintiffs.
I look forward to building this important conversation and community.