Freelancers Win Copyright Suit Over Digitization

It Took 17 Years: Freelancers Receive $9 Million in Copyright Suit

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.

[…] “The argument that we made was the writers got paid for one-time use,” said Mr. Gleick, who worked as a reporter and editor for The Times for 10 years. “We sued The Times because they sold copyrighted work by not just their staff, but also freelance writers. And the correct thing to do would have been to ask the freelance writers for permission and then pay the writers.”

[…] 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.