USA: Court Victory, New York

In another significant victory for writers and all creators, the U.S. Court of Appeals has unanimously denied publishers a rehearing of the landmark electronic rights decision in a case brought by freelance writers.

The defendant-publishers had petitioned the 2nd Circuit for a full court review (“en banc” hearing) of the three-judge panel’s landmark ruling in the lawsuit, Tasini, et al v. The New York Times, et al., Nos. 97-9181, 97-9650 (2nd Cir. Sep. 24, 1999). The ruling last Fall made clear that it is copyright infringement for a publisher to put a freelancer’s work on-line or otherwise reuse or resell it without explicit written permission.

“I am not surprised by the denial because the Appeals Court decision was a one-sided, unshakeable, lucid affirmation of the rights of freelance writers,” said Jonathan Tasini, lead plaintiff and president of the National Writers Union (UAW Local 1981). “It is now time for the defendants to stop stalling and using legal maneuvers to deny writers and all creators’ their fair share. While they stall, the enormous liabilities the defendants admitted they face will grow, as do the liabilities for all media companies who have stolen the work of creators. The New York Times and the other defendants would be wise to turn off their perpetual infringement operations, which are continuing to this day. We now proceed with vigor to the damages phase of the trial.”

The April 6th order denying the rehearing, Tasini said, would further undermine the publishers’ public relations argument to financial investors that they face no liabilities from the landmark ruling. Recently, New York City Comptroller Alan Hevesi, who oversees $100 billion in pension funds, wrote to 36 media companies, expressing concern about the “potential liability of media companies” because of the landmark decision. “As Comptroller Hevesi and others have suggested, we urge the industry to accept the NWU’s proposed solution-the Publication Rights Clearinghouse-to restore financial certainty to their businesses,” said Tasini. The union has also asked the Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate statements made by The New York Times in official SEC filings.

For full details of the lawsuit, the pension fund actions and the SEC complaint, visit the NWU’s website at:

The National Writers Union has 6,000 members nationwide, representing journalists, book authors, technical writers and poets. It is the only union dedicated solely to advancing the interests of freelance writers. The NWU is affiliated with the United Auto Workers.

Contact: Jonathan Tasini, tel 1-212-254-0279