Return to Home
  Legal Update


Supreme Court Hands a Victory to Free-lance Writers in Copyright Case

In a dispute involving the application of copyright law to the digital age, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in New York Times v. Tasini that free-lance writers own the rights to their works that were initially published in print editions and subsequently distributed electronically. In the 7-2 opinion, the justices sided with the freelancers in their battle to obtain compensation for their magazine and newspaper articles that were published without their permission as part of searchable electronic databases and on CD-ROMs.

The publishers, including the New York Times and Time, Inc., argued that the electronic versions of their periodicals constituted a revision of the original work and therefore did not require explicit permission from the authors.

Some publishers, including the New York Times, have announced that rather than seeking the additional permissions and paying additional royalties, they will remove the articles from the databases. However, since the early 1990’s most publishing contracts have included language seeking permission to reprint the articles in electronic formats therefore many current articles will not be affected by the court’s decision.


Related Legal Updates:

Return to Legal Archive 2001 Index