Thursday, March 17, 2011

Steal This Article: While The New York Times Sells My Copyrighted Work, Allow Me To Give It Away to You!

The next generation of copyright scholars still awaits court rulings in two landmark cases. One is the Google Books class-action settlement, engineered by the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers; Judge Denny Chin is handling that one even though he has been elevated from U.S. District Court to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

Then there’s the global settlement on behalf of freelance journalists against the periodicals industry, which the Authors Guild concocted in collaboration with the National Writers Union and the American Society of Journalists and Authors. After a group of objectors, including your humble blogger, appealed what we consider the most abominable sellout in the history of sellouts, the Supreme Court gave the case the exquisite new handle Reed Elsevier v. Muchnick before sending it back to the Second Circuit for consideration of the merits of our objections.

Now this week The New York Times has announced that there is a new pay wall in front of articles from its online archive. These include a number of my own pieces, the secondary rights to which the Supreme Court, in its 2001 decision Tasini v. Times, confirmed belong to me, not The Times. The 7-to-2 decision by the justices was one of the historical fraction of cases in which Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg both voted in the majority.

On December 17, 1989, I did the cover story for The New York Times Magazine, about football star Joe Montana. A few days later I impressed the hell out of my father-in-law when he answered a phone call for me from Joe, who was apologizing for having been baited into a quote in a San Francisco Chronicle article that mistakenly accused my Times Magazine story of intruding in his private life.

With the rejiggering of TimesSelect, The Times – which like many other publishers has thumbed its nose at the Supreme Court on the electronic rights issue for the past decade – is selling “Joe Montana: State of the Art,” rather than simply profiting from advertising hits on it. Because, you see, The Times represents the new access; whereas I and other independent writers, photographers, graphic artists, and videographers, who expect our fair share of the revenue in the new digital economy, represent old-fashioned copyright obtuseness.

But why pay for what you can get for free? Just send me an email at, and I’ll shoot back to you a lovely PDF file of the Joe Montana article, sans photos.

Or you can mail a check for $19.95 to me, at P.O. Box 9629, Berkeley, CA 94709, and I’ll send you both a free hard copy of the Montana piece and an autographed copy of my book CHRIS & NANCY: The True Story of the Benoit Murder-Suicide and Pro Wrestling’s Cocktail of Death. A bargain at any price!


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