No Payments Yet In Tasini Settlement

A court has rejected a settlement between freelancers and publishers that had been sparked by a suit led by Jonathan Tasini.

No, this has nothing to do with the Huffington Post.

Tasini v. New York Times, which reached the Supreme Court in 2001, concerned whether publishers should be able to use freelance works in online databases like LexisNexis. Tasini won his case, PaidContent reports, but a separate class-action lawsuit was needed to get payment from the many other freelancers who felt ripped off.

A settlement was finally negotiated between 21 individual writers, National Writers Union, The Authors Guild, and the American Society of Journalists and Authors on one side, and electronic database companies on the other.

But a three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals has rejected the settlement, saying it’s unfair to a majority of freelancers.

The settlement was going to pay many hundreds of dollars per work for any writer that had registered their work with the U.S. copyright office “fairly quickly,” a lot less for those who registered less quickly, and $5 or 10% of the original sale price for the writers who never registered their works.

The court found that the plaintiffs were mostly those who had registered their works, and that the majority of freelancers were getting a raw deal. The case has to go back to the district court.

This is undoubtedly frustrating for the freelancers who’ve been waiting since 2001 to get paid but is, we think, the fairest way. Copyright is, after all, automatic from the moment your work is created. So says the U.S. copyright office (though the office also notes that you should register if you want to sue someone for infringement). The whole thrust of Tasini v. New York Times, though, is that this new medium of electronic databases came up that hadn’t been covered—the majority of freelancers working for companies that were sending work to these new media probably hadn’t even conceived that their work could be used in this way—until it was too late.