Writers' Copyright Case Before Supreme Court
On March 28,
2001, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral argument in The
New York Times Co., et al. v. Tasini, et al., (No. 00-201). The
Court will have to consider whether a publisher of a newspaper or
periodical has the right to electronically disseminate articles
which have appeared in prior print editions without seeking additional
permission from the freelance authors.
In 1993, a group
of freelance writers sued the New York Times, Newsday, Time, and
other publications, that published their work in print editions
and then placed the content in electronic news databases like Lexis-Nexis
or via CD-ROM.
argued that they hold the copyright of their work and the publishers
are required to seek additional permission from them, as well as
provide additional compensation, to distribute the work electronically
in addition to the version which appeared in print. They maintained
that the electronic reproduction infringed upon their copyright
of the individual articles.
The U.S. District
Court for the Southern District of New York ruled against the freelancers
and found that the Copyright Act grants the right to publishers
to reproduce the individual articles as part of a revision to a
collective work. On appeal, the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals
reversed the decision by ruling that the databases do not constitute
a revision to a collective work.
petitioned the Supreme Court arguing that by enacting Section 201(c)
of the Copyright Act Congress intended for publishers to be able
to disseminate their publications and revisions to those publications
to the public. They argued that the law was drafted in neutral terms
to allow for the development and use of new technologies.
Court Docket Sheet
from Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals from Find Law
to Legal Archive 2001