Freelance writers file proposed U.S. settlement with publishers

Reuters

NEW YORK, Nov 22 (Reuters) - Freelance writers seekingcompensation from publishers for the reprinting of their work inonline databases without permission asked a court on Friday toapprove a revised settlement that would remove a cap on thecompensation they could receive.

The proposed deal came after the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court ofAppeals in New York threw out an earlier settlement in 2011 asunfair because it shortchanged authors who did not registercopyrights on their works. Those authors represented more than99 percent of the claims.

In the newly drafted agreement, signed by all the partiesinvolved except one company going through bankruptcy, theoriginal $18 million settlement cap will be eliminated on whatwriters can receive for their archived work, which includesarticles that go back to the 1980s.

"The revised settlement provides a substantial benefit:millions of dollars in cash payments to class members whosubmitted valid claims," said the filing with the U.S. DistrictCourt for southern New York.

Publishers in the lawsuit included Reed Elsevier , New York Times Co, News Corp's Dow Jones & Co, Thomson Reuters Corp and Knight Ridder, which was bought by McClatchy Co in2006.

Defendant Cengage Learning, formerly known as the GaleGroup, is in bankruptcy proceedings and needs approval from thebankruptcy court to enter into the agreement, the document said.

The original 2005 settlement, reached through mediation,came four years after the Supreme Court said publishers violatedcopyright law when they reproduced freelance workselectronically without obtaining permission from copyrightowners. That settlement capped the amount that writers who hadnot copyrighted their work could collect.

A group of authors who had not registered their worksobjected, saying the cap unfairly reduced the compensation theycould recover.

Charles Chalmers, a lawyer for the authors, said on Fridaythe exact number of writers who will benefit from the deal isunknown since many of the publishing companies did not keep goodrecords of the freelancers who worked for them over the years.

"What we do know is there are not going to be any newclaims," Chalmers said, adding about 3,000 authors were coveredby the original deal.

He said he did not expect the claims to exceed $19.5million, but it was too soon to know the amount of the finalsettlement.

If the deal is approved without objections, payments couldgo out sometime next year, he said.

Charles Sims, one of the attorneys representing thepublishers, did not respond to a request for comment.

The case is In re: Literary Works in Electronic DatabasesCopyright Litigation, U.S. District Court Southern District ofNew York, No. 1:00-md-01379-GBD.

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