Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Court Says $18 Million Dollar Freelancer Settlement Approved

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Tuesday revived an $18 million settlement of a dispute involving payment to freelance writers for online use of their work.

The high court overturned a lower court decision throwing out an 418 million dollae settlement between freelancers, publishers, and database owners including Reed Elsevier Inc., educational publisher and owner of the LexisNexis information service.

The proposed settlement covers freelancers who registered the copyright to their works as well as those who didn't. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York had said courts generally don't have authority over infringement claims on works that are not copyrighted.

Justice Clarence Thomas disagreed, writing that the lower court did have authority to approve the settlement.

The lawsuit followed a Supreme Court ruling in 2001 that freelance writers have online rights to their work.

The case largely applied to articles, photographs and illustrations that were produced 15 or more years ago, before freelance contracts provided for the material's electronic use.

The case is Reed Elsevier v. Muchnick, 08-103.

NYC to Treat Bloggers Like Journalists, by Giving Them Press Passes

By Mike Taylor

City Hall just made life a little easier for bloggers who do shoe-leather reporting. New York City will now issue press passes to qualified online journalists, allowing them access to areas where the city restricts public access. We can thank blogger Rafael Martinez Alequin, who filed the lawsuit that precipitated the change.

Update: Gotham Gazette alerts us that two additional plaintiffs --'s David Wallis and Guardian Chronicle's Ralph E. Smith -- also pressed the case.

Before today, journalists who worked online were routinely denied press passes, presumably owing to antiquated definitions of what it means to work in media. Frankly, we're surprised it took this long.

From today's announcement:

"Under the proposed new rules published today, to obtain a press credential, an applicant must show that he or she has covered, in person, six news events where the City has restricted access, within the two-year period preceding the application. In addition to employees of traditional news gathering organizations, the new rules cover self-employed newspersons and other individuals who gather and report the news. The new press card will be issued every two years."

So it's not like any old yahoo with a blog can get special access to exclusive or difficult-to-access events; the yahoo must be invested enough in the beat to have written about restricted events six times. Only the most dedicated bloggers get access. Seems fair.

The press release, which appeared in today's City Record, is available in full at the Observer and the Gotham Gazette.

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