Wednesday, March 30, 2005
Good News for Writers
Gates Parody 3
Finally, some good news for writers, including travel writers whose work has been stolen for many years by major corporations and posted on websites littered with banner ads and paid advertising. This scandalous theft has been going on for over a decade, but several writers organizations (ASJA, NWU, AG) have won a fairly large judgment against these thieves.
Many thanks to the groups who filed this lawsuit, but you really wonder: where the hell was the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW)? Scoring their next free press trip for their geriatric freebie loving former travel writers?
A settlement reached last Wednesday in a class-action online publishing lawsuit could mean plenty of freelance writers will be eligible to receive their share of up to $18 million dollars from big media companies, once the agreement receives court approval that is expected in the next few weeks.
The settlement, which could net qualifying freelancers a collective minimum of $10 million and maximum of $18 million, is the result of a lawsuit meant to remunerate writers for work that had been published over the years in online databases without their approval.
Originally, three separate lawsuits were filed over time, starting in August 2000. They were eventually combined into one large class-action suit. Plaintiffs, who filed on behalf of thousands of freelance writers, included the American Society of Journalists and Authors, the Authors Guild, the National Writers Union and almost two dozen freelance writers.
The suit was filed against several media companies, including Time, Knight Ridder, Reed Elsevier (of which LexisNexis is a division) and The New York Times Company. Under the terms of the settlement, freelance writers who had work published between August 1977 and December 2002 will be eligible to fill out a form -- online or by mail -- that will entitle them to money for works to which they had not signed away their rights to electronic publication, said Jim Morrison, a past president of the American Society of Journalists and Authors who helped negotiate the settlement.
According to a joint press release put out by the American Society of Journalists and Authors, the Authors Guild and the National Writers Union, those eligible could receive up to $1,500 for stories that they had registered a copyright for, or $60 for those they had not. The release said remuneration amounts depend on other things as well, like how much was initially paid for the article when it was published, and if the writer allows future utilization of the article in the databases.
A site called FreelanceRights.com has been set up to help disseminate information about the agreement. Morrison thinks there will be many freelance writers owed money for hundreds of stories. "There will be some freelancers who registered their copyrights who will make six figures under this settlement," he said.
On Tuesday, March 29, a motion was filed for court approval of the settlement. Morrison said a judicial rubber stamp is expected in about a month. A spokesman for Time said, "We think it's a fair resolution to the issues at hand."