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.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The simple answer as to why it has not been reported that the settlement has been appealed is that nobody except the objectors take the appeal seriously. Your appeal has absolutely no merit and only serves to hurt the freelance writers that you purport to "protect." Why didn't you just object, go away, then file your own lawsuit instead of inflicting misery on others?

5:54 PM  
Blogger Francis Hamit said...

There is considerable merit in the appeal, according to at least one IP attorney I know. Moreover, the appeal did not emcompass all of the issues raised at the so-called "Fairness Hearing".

6:17 PM  
Blogger Francis Hamit said...

Let me add that the ones hurting freelance writers are themselves by their continued failure to get involved in these issues and step up and be heard. That does not mean demonstrations that no one heeds, but getting their copyrights registered, and filing lawsuits that are not bogus class actions that only serve the defendants and their lawyers.

6:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Miss Hamit,

No offense, but I was directing my comment and question to Mr. Muchnick. But since you wanted to chime in....Do you understand that everyone's particular needs can not be met by a class action lawsuit. If the suit doesn't meet the greater need, then most will object and the class won't be certified. On a personal level, I have many thousands of unregistered works. It would be impossible and impractical, not to mention unaffordable to register them all. I'm sure there are many in this suit who are in the same boat as I am; just grateful to get something back after selling works as an independent contractor. Once again I ask the question that nobody seems to want to answer: Why didn't the people who object just do so and file their own lawsuits. Get greedy and go after as much money as you want. I couldn't care less. Just leave me and the vast majority of freelancers out of it. There is nothing in the final settlement that prevents opt-outs from filing their own lawsuits. You and your small group of greed mongers are holding up payments to people who need the money. Since your attorney, Mr. Chalmers, seems far too intelligent to take this case on contingency, I only pray to God that this is costing Muchnick and the rest of the appellants an arm and a leg. I must appologize for saying that your appeal has "absolutely no merit." It has as much chance as a snowball in hell or a Harvey Fierstein, Jr.

8:07 PM  

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