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After 17 years: Payment in the freelance writers' class action suit

May 1, 2018

Tags: Authors Guild

$9 Million Is Paid to Freelance Writers in 17-Year-Old Copyright Suit (Authors Guild, 4-30-18) The class-action suit grew out of an earlier action brought by Jonathan Tasini and several other writers, which led to the Supreme Court ruling in the freelancers’ favor.
• If you have moved since filing your claim, there is a link to provide the administrator with your current address, but you will need your claim number:
https://cert.gardencitygroup.com/ed2/fs/home

It Took 17 Years: Freelancers Receive $9 Million in Copyright Suit (Jacklyn Peiser, NY Times, 4-30-18) "Seventeen years after nearly 3,000 freelance journalists filed a class-action lawsuit claiming copyright infringement by some of the country’s biggest publishers, the checks are finally in the mail....The Authors Guild filed the suit — along with the American Society of Journalists and Authors, the National Writers Union and 21 freelance writers named as class representatives — in 2001 after publishers licensed articles by freelancers to the electronic database Lexis/Nexis and other digital indexers without getting the writers’ approval. The publishers include The New York Times, Dow Jones, and Knight Ridder, as well as Reed Elsevier, the provider of Lexis/Nexis....Despite the 17-year wait, the freelancers who were part of the lawsuit may consider themselves lucky. Since the case went to court, it has become common practice for publishers to own the digital rights of the articles they publish."

The Authors Guild says "A few writers will receive payouts in the hundreds of thousands of dollars; the amounts depend on the original fees for each article and also, because of the technicalities of copyright law, whether and when the individual works at issue were registered with the Copyright Office."

Those few are people who had registered copyrights on tens of articles covered by the class action before filing a claim. Not many writers do that. If multiple articles claimed were covered by one copyright (e.g. book excerpts), they only counted as a single statutory violation.

Here is the original list of publications included "In Re Literary Works in Electronic Databases Copyright Litigation":
https://cert.gardencitygroup.com/ed2/fs/publicationsthe

• If you don’t have your claim number you will need to contact the claims administrator by email:
CopyrightSettlement@girardgibbs.com

You may also mail the claims administrator at:
Literary Works in Electronic Databases Copyright Litigation
c/o GCG
PO Box 10032
Dublin, OH 43017-6632

• The claims administration site is:
http://www.copyrightclassaction.com/index.php3

Questions and answers on the settlement site, added May 1, 2018
" Since we mailed out the settlement checks, we have received a number of questions that are addressed there.
We will update this list of inquiries as more common questions arise. "
Freelance Settlement Update (Authors Guild , 9-17-17 updated 12-6-17) Case history, plan of allocation, and other important background information.
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Congratulations writers! And thanks for the notices to Guild members from Mary Rasenberger, Executive Director of The Authors Guild. Quite a few writers celebrated this week, often having forgotten about filling out those forms lo those many years ago!


Comments

  1. May 23, 2018 8:58 PM EDT
    Writer Lee Foster Receives a Little Late Justice in a $2,935.66 Check. A good explanation of the underlying dynamics, of publishers deciding it wasn't worth the time it would take to assess what they really owed freelance writers, and of writers deciding to stick up for their rights. It only took 17 years for the writers to get some compensation. That writers whose stories were published in many different places got paid only for the first re-use, in the settlement--well...so it was not a perfect settlement, but it was something.
    - PM