Monday, August 07, 2006

C Reduction Isn't the Only Reason the UnSettlement Should Go Down

Outrage builds over the lawyers' bait-and-switch on the C Reduction, and that's a good thing. To review, the 99% of the class who have unregistered claims first were told that there was no chance their claim awards could be reduced, or reduced to zero. So were the courts. Now we're being told, well, maybe there is a chance. Yeah, I'll say there's a chance. Then again, they never promised us a rose garden.

At this point I'd like to take a brief pause to point out that the C Reduction deception is not an anomaly of the UnSettlement. Indeed, the whole deal is shot through with double-talk, legal legerdemain, and power-tripping solely for the benefit of the defense group. In every area small and large, the writers' organizations, the named plaintiffs, and their mouthpieces have taken the leverage they had with the 2001 Supreme Court Tasini v. New York Times decision, and proceeded to bury themselves and all of us.

Here's one of the most important of many other examples.

The notice to the class stated that no claims were allowed for "[works in] scientific and research-oriented medical journals." Yet scientific/medical works were clearly in the class definition, which covers all English language literary works. And the settlement agreement releases all claims for works within the class definition and grants a license for the copyrights in those works.

Long after our objections were filed, the plaintiffs said they never intended to release those claims, and unilaterally qualified them: "No claims shall be released with respect to works published in scientific or research-based medical journals."

Note the unexplained shift from the language of the notice, "research-oriented," to "research-based." Is an article in a popular magazine about the search for a cure for AIDS "research-based"? And while we're at it, are they talking about scientific journals or research-based medical journals -- or scientific medical journals or research-based medical journals?

It appears that the trick here is to exploit the old fault line between freelancers who make a living from their writing, and those who draw salaries from the academy and are motivated mostly to publish so as not to perish. There is no such explicit distinction in copyright law, and the slope is a slippery one. If the defense group intends to lock up the entire corpus of writings over the last generation in technical and scientific fields, then we're talking about a major piece of the history of our civilization.

But go ahead, plaintiffs, just give it all away and hope no one notices before you collect your obscene shares of a paltry settlement pot and your lawyers pocket their fees.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's a great story. Waiting for more. » »

10:27 AM  

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