Wednesday, January 23, 2008

More from Francis Hamit

Settlement opt-outer Francis Hamit posted a comment on our item yesterday. It's so valuable that it deserves repetition and better play, so here goes. Thanks, Francis.


My own research indicates that between 30 and 75 percent of the gross revenues from database subscriptions flows back to the original publishers. The aggregators obviously do not do "due diligence" by checking to the Copyright Office online database to see if the copyright on an article is registered but rely upon the warranties in the contract with the publisher. In my experience, most publishers have a very fuzzy notion of what rights are transfered in an oral contract. One of mine thought that he could declare something "work for hire" and have that stick, when the law specifically says that there must be a written contract. It cost him a lot of money to find out how wrong he was because he arrogantly ignored my letters and those of my attorney. He forced us to file; a commonly used tactic that prejudices the Court against the defendant.

And you are quite right that individual articles can be tracked. Library usage is reported that way, and you can get the reports from your local public library simply by saying you are an interested tax payer and want to see how tax money is spent. The big surprise here is how little the databases are actually used compared to the population served. My local library pays about $1.65 for every article downloaded for free by a library patron.

Divided among all possible users, it works out to about four tenths of a cent each for everyone in the county. That's ten thousand or so downloads per year in a population of over 800,000 people.

Gale Group brags that is has 60,000 libraries in 60 nations as customers (This was in a press release). Multiply that by the $20,000 per year my local library pays for
its subscription and you have 1.2 billion dollars a year, half of which goes to the original publishers and belongs, in part, the freelance writers. As we determined during the Fairness Hearings, there are about 32,500 freelance writers in the USA, plus those abroad, whose work is being infringed. It gets complicated and we really need something like the ALCS here to handle the details.


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