Monday, January 21, 2002
Under Supreme Court Attack!
By Howard Hobbs Ph.D. President
Valley Press Media Network
- Last June, the U.S. Supreme Court changed they way U.S. newspapers
conduct the information business, forever. The Court ruled that
newspaper publishers don't own the rights to the most widely read
online columns by freelance writers.
The predictable consequence of this ruling
by the high court, is that newspaper publishers are systematically
destroying all freelance cvolumn material from
theirn online search-endines and databases files.
The newspaper articles, commentary, and
op-ed pieces have provided writers and researchers with the single
most important source of social and economic opinion data relied
upon for interprtetation of the social and political history of
both distant past and recent local and wordl wide human events.
Bruce P. Keller Esq. represents newspaper
publishers in the Supreme Court case (Tasini ). He told reporters,
"...By the 1990s, most publishers had added online-publication
rights to their freelance contracts. But as for the articles from
the late '70s, '80s, and early '90s, no one, even among publishers,
is yet certain how much is coming down and for how long."
In the Tasini suit, freelance
writers said that, under the copyright law of 1978, traditional
publishers did not have the right to republish freelance work in
online databases. That would have been an infringement because it
significantly altered the original work, and newspapers which engaged
in that practice owed the them writers money.
But owners of the newspaper publications,
claim that producing and selling online versions of thre newspaper
which included such content did infringe. The American Library
Association and the Association of Research Libraries
filed amici briefs in support of the writers. Another group
of historians -- including Gordon S. Wood from Brown University
and Jack N. Rakove from Stanford, along with Mr. Kennedy and Mr.
McCollough -- filed a brief in support of the publishers, fearing
that significant access to newspaper files would be lost if the
writers won the case. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the writers
Within hours of the Court's ruling appearance
on the Internet, the Authors Guild filed a lawsuit against
The New York Times, alleging a cause of action for infringement.
In the meanwhile, The National Geographic
Society is struggling with infringement actions alleging infringement
by its publication of a complete CD-ROM archive of the magazine's
publications covering the past 114 years.each side in that case
says that the Supreme Court's ruling supports its claim.
Worse still, its has just been leaned that
the National Writers Union has filed new litigation naming
the NY Times, alleging tthe NY Times has been coercing freelance
writers into signing away their rights to online articles.
Some news media and database companies have
confirmed that news articles are being redacted ferom their databases.The
Arizona Republic, and many others say that according to company
policy, entire newspaper files are being pulled offline and reviewed.
Toby Usnik, a spokesman for The New York
Times, told reporters that since the Supreme Court ruling, in June,
the newspaper has pulled 100,000 articles offline; however, 15,000
of those articles have since been restored after the paper struck
deals with writers.
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