Monday, June 26, 2006

ASJA -- American Society of Jumbled Advice

More than a year ago, shortly after this blog was launched, we suggested that ASJA -- the American Society of Journalists and Authors -- instead go by the initials LTECR, for "Let Them Eat Copyright Registrations." A new analysis of the role of this so-called "associational plaintiff" in the copyright class action sellout/giveaway offers still more sad insights.

Last week many class members received claims-defect notices from the settlement administrator, with new mid-July deadlines for curing those defects. Some of the alleged defects contradict the advice given by a September 2005 edition of ASJA's Contracts Watch email bulletin (which we reproduced at the time and is still viewable at See in particular the following two paragraphs:

2. You DO NOT have to have documentation to back up your claim. Fill out the form to the best of your knowledge. You do not need pay stubs or contracts. You do not need to cite an exact publication date.

3. It is up to the defendants to challenge a claim. The presumption lies with the writer. When in doubt, file a claim.

It is interesting, at the very least, to try squaring that with what happened to the writers who took ASJA's advice. (And remember, ASJA was directly involved in the UnSettlement; this is not arm's-length commentary.)

But try this additional twist. The "CLAIMS ADMINISTRATION MEMO" that is Exhibit B of the settlement agreement (viewable at contradicts the idea that the burden is on the defendants to challenge claims. To the contrary, it suggests that the defendants fought hard for, and the plaintiffs acceded, to the appointment of a company of hard-assed bureaucrats to administer claims.

I'm not going to cite the provisions chapter-and-verse; some of them are contradictory and, in any case, they need to be evaluated in full context. Read the whole document for yourself. The point is that ASJA's blue-skies assurances to the freelance community that claims submission would be a piece of cake were clearly irresponsible. As was its entire role as an "associational plaintiff," from which it helped lead the negotiations that produced the UnSettlement.

The key ASJA figure in all this was former president Jim Morrison ( ASJA's current president is Jack El-Hai; you can probably let him know what you think about the American Society of Jumbled Advice by using the email form at


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