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Copyright Reinforced By Reinstatement of Tasini v. The NY Times

Laws about writing and booksWay back in 2001 the National Writers Union (NWY.org) sued newspapers and magazines who sold published articles to databases on the grounds such sales were a violation of the author’s copyrights. The suit, known as Tasini et al v. The New York Times et al was decided in favor of the authors, setting the stage for a n $18 million settlement.

There were two groups of authors involved, those that had actually registered their copyrights (which, by the way,  you can now do online) and those who hadn’t, knowing that they had an automatic, defensible copyright without filing. As you might imagine the second group was much larger than the first.

Unfortunately some of the authors in the group that had filed a copyright objected to the settlement on the grounds that by including those who hadn’t filed for a copyright the proceeds of the settlement would be spread too thin. This meant the settlement was reviewed by a lower court, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in New York in 2007 who refused to approve the settlement on what I think is called a technicality. (Don’t you just love this sort of snarl?)


That kicked the issue back to the Supreme Court. On March 2, the Supremes reinstated the settlement.

This reinstatement reinforces copyrights for writers.

Let’s hope it holds. (I wonder who collects the interest on the $18 million – probably banks.)

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Image from http://www.sxc.hu

{ 8 comments… add one }
  • I have mixed feelings about copyright as it is currently practiced in the USA. It is a government granted monopoly allowing the author/producer/owner to control the product for some limited period. That’s good and proper, I think.

    However, it seems that some powerful organizations have arranged to have that limited period extended forever. Some of these same organizations have greatly profited from creating derived works from stories in the public domain.

    Never again, I fear, will anything pass into the public domain unless the author/producer/owner places it there. Effectively our culture is owned. If our culture is owned are we not owned along with it? Even the photographing of some buildings has elicited cries of copyright infringement from the architects.

    I don’t know the answer or where the balance should be. I do wonder why more people don’t ask more questions.

    The foundation for copyright in the USA is laid in Article 1, Section 8 of our Constitution:

    To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries;

    Are we living up to this? Perhaps we are. Maybe not. I’m just wondering.

    Peace,

    Rob:-]

    • Anne

      Rob, I totally agree with you. It’s one of the reason I like the creative commons licence so much – enough so I’m using it on my own stuff more and more. I agree that what, 70 years and then some is way too long.

      Once again it’s the corporations pushing for profit I think that have actually made this change… I might be wrong about how it happened. Like patents, we’ve gone overboard.

      And thanks for bringing this up… I know I haven’t really held up my end on the questioning part… I feel a blog post coming on.

  • Banks are like coral; it grows slowly and then merges like crazy until you have one big reef. Attorneys, on the other hand, are like sharks. The banks wouldn’t end up with a penny of the settlement. I’m surprised no one spotted that already. Maybe time to take Econ 101.
    .-= jorgekafkazar´s last blog ..Tenirax, Ch V =-.

    • Anne

      No, but I’ll bet banks have earned interest money while other fiddle the settlement… but on the whole you’re right.

  • “I wonder who collects the interest on the $18 million – probably banks.”

    LOL You’re probably right.

    I’m not intimately familiar w/ the case, but it does seem kind of silly that any writers trying to defend copyright would belittle the copyright of others (legally granted automatically) just for more money. Isn’t the whole case about not exploiting the rights of others for money? I don’t know. I could be missing something. Admittedly, it’s Friday and I’m too tired to go read the linked info, so consider that my half-assed thought of the day.
    .-= Jenn Mattern´s last blog ..The Case for Blogging for Clients (and not Only Yourself) =-.

    • Anne

      Jenn, I don’t read legalize well either, but what my sense was that it was just a few – I don’t know if that means two or 100 – that were unhappy. And will I agree it’s totally silly I can also see it happening, driving everyone to distraction and fattening lawyers profits. In fact, if I were into my conspiracy mode… but I’m not going there at the moment.

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