Monday, June 19, 2006

Claims Info Manipulation: New Hanky-Panky From the UnSettlement Parties?

The briefing has been completed in the objectors' appeal to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, and we have all the documents available for viewing. Our appeal brief, as noted previously, was filed April 3 and is at http://www.muchnick.net/AppealBrief.pdf. The plaintiffs' opposition brief, filed May 25, is at http://www.muchnick.net/PlaintiffsAppealBrief.pdf. The defendants' opposition brief, also filed May 25, is at http://www.muchnick.net/DefendantsAppealBrief.pdf. Our consolidated reply brief, filed June 12, is at http://www.muchnick.net/AppellantsReplyBrief.pdf.

In due course I'll have some things to say about the disgracefully shoddy legal arguments on display here by the opposition in an attempt to blunt our objections. But first I want to report on an even newer development and begin discussing what it might mean.

Yesterday, Monday, at least four of the ten objectors, including myself, received letters from the claims administrator asserting that the claims we submitted last summer were deficient in one or more technical ways. We've been told that we have until July 17 to correct them.

Since these are form letters, we can only guess that many, many, many fellow class members got similarly dinged, and we'd like to hear from you (info@muchnick.net). In a day or two I'll go into more detail on the alleged deficiencies in the claims packages of our objector group, and why we think those assertions are full of it from here to Bologna, and why -- even more importantly -- they expose the purportedly simple claims procedures for being hopelessly ambiguous and confusing.

But that's not all, folks. The oppositions' briefs and this flurry of claims-deficiency notices suggest that the other side -- which we believe has colluded in this settlement and tried to screw the freelance writers' community -- might just have found a way to sink to an even lower level of desperation and sleaze.

As you'll see when you read the opposition briefs, the defendants argue that it would be "absurd" to find that the settlement structure threatened to kick in a provision whereby the claims awards for Category C class members (those whose infringed works did not have registered copyrights) could be reduced, even reduced to zero. (Earlier the risk was described variously as "exceedingly remote," "inconceivable," and something which "as a factual matter" has "no chance" and "[n]o basis in reality.")

The settlement parties attempt to prove this in a way that is as odd and illogical as it is illegally and outrageously manipulative: they release for the first time, to the appellate court, interim claims information along with a slapdash analysis of it. Specifically, they state that there is a total of $10.76 million in "prima facie valid claims," so -- voila! -- they fell a million-and-change short of having to resort to the C Reduction.

For the sake of brevity with what is the opening blog of a series, I'll defer until later an evisceration of the ridiculousness of this line. Right now I'd like my fellow class members to focus on two things. First, it's a blatant violation of appellate rules to introduce into appellate briefs new information from outside the original district court record. (Much less to introduce it in such a drib-and-drab fashion.)

Second, there are all those claims-deficiency notices that went out last Friday and started landing in mailboxes yesterday. Did these nitpicks fall under "prima facie valid claims" or "prima facie invalid claims"? Were the two tactics -- the illegal piecemeal disclosure of post-district court record data, and the mailing of these notices -- part of a coordinated campaign to cook the books?

See you shortly with further thoughts and more specifics. In the meantime, help us out if you can with info about similar communications that you received.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Betsy Wade said...

My name is Betsy Wade. I was an employee of the New York Times for almost 45 years. In this time, I wrote a considerable number of freelance articles for the Times that were paid for separately. The Newspaper Guild contracts for almost all the years I was employed at the Times specified the conditions that applied to freelance work written by employees, including the employees' rights in cases of request for reprints. There are documents from the NYT Syndication Sales that support my title to such work. I never signed the freelancers' "agreement" with the Times and have not sought to sell an article there since I retired in 2001. I described this situation in a letter with my claim. I did not seek money, but the rights to my own work. A four-line letter has declared me out of the ballgame.

12:32 PM  

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