Friday, March 06, 2009

Letter on Roy Blount Jr.'s Kindle Essay -- Not Fit to Print in The New York Times

To the Editor:
Roy Blount Jr. is an old friend -- we won the same college sportswriting scholarship and he kindly blurbed my first book. I therefore am pained to say that, though he makes the right points about the authors' rights deficiencies of the current revenue-sharing scheme for audio books, his Authors Guild is on the wrong side of a case involving the identical principle for freelance journalists ("The Kindle Swindle?", Op-Ed, Feb. 25).
In 2005, the guild and two other writers' organizations -- the American Society of Journalists and Authors, and the National Writers Union -- brokered a settlement in federal district court of a class-action copyright suit against the newspaper and periodicals industries, and their electronic database partners, over unauthorized and uncompensated reuse of the works of freelancers. This suit stemmed from the historic victory of writers in the 2001 Supreme Court decision Tasini v. New York Times.
I lead a slate of objectors who appealed the class-action settlement. We believe the settlement's "license by default" provision is illegal. Most fundamentally, I object in words that could have been cribbed from Roy Blount, who wrote that "authors have a right to a fair share of the value that audio adds." Just substitute "electronic rights add" for "audio adds."
The Second Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the settlement on technical jurisdictional grounds. Both the parties and the objectors have asked the Supreme Court to reverse that ruling -- in our case, because we want to go back and argue against the settlement on the merits.
Irvin Muchnick
Berkeley, Calif., Feb. 25, 2009


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