Sunday, January 28, 2007

Spotting New York Times Public Editor Conflicts: A Solution With Problems

Your humble blogger previously has pointed out others' citations of the lameness of the New York Times "public editorship" under its current custodian, Byron Calame: Class action copyright settlement co-objector Todd Pitock had an exchange with Calame ( and Slate media critic Jack Shafer had an essay last May, headlined, "The Public Editor as Duffer," which can be accessed at

"Public editor," I note, is pompous Timesese for the vaguely self-critical, yet self-serving, position more commonly called "ombudsman" or "readers' advocate."

In his column today, Calame revisits the issue that first drew Todd Pitock's ire. Read "Spotting Freelancers' Conflicts: A Solution With Problems," and snooze.

As Todd and others wrote last year, The Public Editor's earlier account misreported the outcome and implications of the Supreme Court's 2001 Tasini decision regarding the exploitation of freelancers' secondary rights to previously published articles. In response, Calame said he thought he was properly characterizing the scenario -- thus was beyond criticism even if mistaken (and even if he never bothered later to correct or clarify).

Now Calame regurgitates the whole, largely boring controversy over freelance journalists' undisclosed links to the ventures they proceed to contract to write about for The Times. While I acknowledge the validity of the problem (though not necessarily the scale of Calame's attack on it, in proportion to parallel blatant corruption involving staff writers, not to mention corporate conflicts), I have a gentle question.

Why has The Times -- which touted the proposed class action copyright settlement as a done deal when it was announced in March 2005 -- never reported, in Calame's column or anywhere else, that the settlement has been appealed by a slate of objectors, who will be heard in oral argument before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in March?

Just wondering.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Clarification on Time of March 7 Hearing

I'm told that in the item below, as originally posted, I misinterpreted the Second Circuit's calendar announcement: The court probably contemplates completing its March 7 docket by noon or shortly thereafter. So the oral argument of the objectors' appeal should be in late morning. (The previous post has been corrected.)

Details of March 7 Oral Argument

The Second Circuit calendar, released Monday, shows that the oral argument of our appeal of the class-action copyright settlement will be the last case heard by the court on Wednesday, March 7, at the ninth floor "Ceremonial Courtroom," 500 Pearl Street in lower Manhattan. The day's docket opens at 10 a.m.; our roughly half-hour-long hearing is the last on the list, and should start in late morning and finish by noon or shortly thereafter. A panel of three Circuit appellate judges -- who have not yet been named -- will hear the argument. The court generally issues decisions some months after oral arguments.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Mr. Anonymous, Part 2

An anonymous defender of the UnSettlement posted a spam-like comment at different spots on this blog. Yesterday we challenged this person to document the claim of having received written confirmation that there would be no Category C reduction. There has been no response.

Mr. Anonymous also used the forum to repeat an old catcall about how our attorney, Charles Chalmers, is a "professional objector." This canard had its origin in remarks by former ASJA president Jim Morrison in the organization's mysterious, secret internal discussion board, and continued in several iterations of the UnSettlement parties' briefs. Indeed, as far I can tell, this ad hominem attack is their best argument.

Two years ago, when I was looking for an attorney with the moxie to take on this project, I spoke at length with a good friend of mine who is also a class-action lawyer. He wanted no part of representing me on objections, but suggested Chalmers. "Much as I hate to admit it, he has improved settlements," my friend said.

Chalmers has a website where you can examine his record in this area. To read about his past cases, go to To read about his current activity, go to

Saturday, January 06, 2007


I understand that the date has been set for oral argument before a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. It will be in New York on Wednesday, March 7. I'll post the time of the hearing when I have it.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Dear Mr. Anonymous

A courageous reader by the name of Anonymous has submitted an identical comment under several recent posts on this blog.

Since no simple synopsis on my part could possibly do justice to the comment's wit ("Mr. Munchkin"), wide-ranging literary allusions (Captain Ahab), and logic (Mr. Anonymous doesn't seem to grasp that the objectors' beef is with the way the class was represented by its own purported lawyers and representatives, not with settlement moves the defendants made in their own interests), you should just read it for yourself if you're interested.

Two statements by Mr. Anonymous call for a wider airing. One is his attack on the record of the objectors' excellent attorney, Charles Chalmers. I'll get to that in the near future.

The other is this:

I have been assured in writing that the Category C claims will not, under any circumstances, be reduced. All the claims are now in Mr. Munchkin. It is a fact that the Category C claims will be paid in full. There are no surprises in this area, so stop misleading everyone into thinking that there will be a reduction in Category C claims.

Evidently, Mr. Anonymous is privy to information inaccessible to the rest of us. I therefore ask him to share with all of us the documents in which he has "been assured in writing that the Category C claims will not, under any circumstances, be reduced."

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Lowdown on NWU Embezzlement

A source at the National Writers Union, on condition of anonymity, tells us this about the recent NWU embezzlement case:

"Two employees wrote themselves checks for more than $60,000. They were both indicted; one, a staffer, remains in jail, the other, a temp sent by an employment agency, is out on bail. Next court appearance is January 18 in New York Superior Court."

The source doesn't think this bears on the NWU's role in the class action settlement. I agree, to a point. Continuing the insider account: "The embezzlement was clearly a failure of management. The key to an automatic check-signing machine was not secured. (The machine is no longer in use and handwritten signatures are required.) The union's volunteer finance committee discovered the theft and blew the whistle. No officers have been charged with anything."

Monday, January 01, 2007

Anyone Have Info on the Scandal at the NWU?

At a New Year's Eve party I heard further information corroborating a rumor of an embezzlement scandal at the National Writers Union. Though this doesn't bear directly on our appeal of the UnSettlement, any evidence of the NWU's patent inadequacy to represent the class as an "associational plaintiff" might help wake the freelance writing community from its slumber, and therefore would be shared by your humble blogger. (Remember, after we objectors win the appeal, we'll need a large quantity of registrations of the copyrights of older stories -- along with a base line of understanding of the issues -- in order to bring the industry to heel.)

If you have any facts about the NWU situation, you can email me at Happy New Year!

New Year = New Round of Cyberpiracy by the UnSettlement Parties

Francis Hamit is a fellow writer and writers' rights activist. He is not an objector to the UnSettlement; better positioned than most of us to pursue claims on his own, he opted out and, working with his attorney, filed a number of them. Francis and I don't have perfectly aligned views on the thorny issues of how the revenues of new technologies should be accounted for and shared, but that's OK -- diverse perspectives are what makes the world go 'round.

On the Hamit blog "The Fight for Copyright," Francis has kicked off the new year with a tidbit he calls "so blatant and bizarre you will either laugh or cry." Read it for yourself at

Hamit's tale of woe involves a piece he wrote last year for the Columbia Journalism Review about the fledgling idea of instituting into law a copyright small claims court. I don't think this has much chance of getting enacted, but the idea is, without a doubt, intriguing.

Francis notes that his CJR article, headlined "Stop Thief!", is now -- ironically and illegally -- available, without the copyright holder's (his) permission, on LookSmart, via ProQuest.

Yes ... and so are many thousands of other articles first published in 2006, no matter what their contracts stated. The explanation is not baffling: understanding the implications of relicensing freelance authors' works has never been, and continues not to be, a priority for the brain surgeons of the publishing industry, whose conveniently profiteering incompetence is enabled by the rocket scientists at the writers' organizations, and their named plaintiff pets, who are trying to stick all of us with the regime of the UnSettlement.

I'm not going to exacerbate your New Year's Day hangovers with a migraine-inducing regurgitation of what the world needs now, besides love-sweet-love: a kinder and gentler ASCAP-style system that includes a compulsory license and a crude but broadly accurate way to track reuse and channel a fair share of new revenues to creators.

I'll just remind you that our appeal of the UnSettlement approval proceeds, with oral argument before the Second Circuit possibly happening in late March. We'll keep you posted.