Inivite Your Publisher to Sit Down
But Not on You
"Union grievance officers have recovered more than $1.4 million for NWU members and have represented members in non-monetary grievances as well."
Source: The Nationa Writers Union website.
J.K. Rowlings probably doesn't need a union. Stephen King can buy and sell the state of Maine, and Stephanie Meyers is probably looking at buying the Virgin Islands. They can afford to to stand up for themselves. How about you?
Let's say you sold an article a few years back to the New York Times. You sold them First North American print rights. You beam. You glow. Your friends and neighbors ask to be photographed with you and you begin to get holiday cards not addressed to "Occupant." Things are going well.
Then, someone tells you that they saw your article on the web, or accessed it on an electronic database. You start to think. Maybe it's a mistake. Maybe they misunderstood the deal. You contact them. They say they're exercising their rights under the contract. You point out that the contract is for print, not electronic publications. They hang up on you.
A quick check of your bank account reveals that you can afford to buy a new blender, but unfortunately can't afford to sue the New York Times.
You've been proud of your independence. You take on the world with your laptop. Your brain and you against the world. You're published. By a big publisher. But now that big publisher is pushing you around.
If you were both a freelance writer and also a member of the National Writers Union, UAW Local 1981, you could contact your Union. If you weren't, well, you'd have a long, uphill and expensive legal fight that just might be more than you could afford.
Here's the story, taken from the National Writers Union Website of "Tasini et al vs. The New York Times Company, Newsday Inc., Time Inc., Lexis/Nexis, and University Microfilms Inc. et al":
"Tasini v. New York Times
Tasini et al v. The New York Times et al is the landmark lawsuit brought by members of the National Writers Union against The New York Times Company, Newsday Inc., Time Inc., Lexis/Nexis, and University Microfilms Inc., charging copyright violation regarding the electronic reuse of work produced and sold on a freelance basis.
For decades when freelance writers sold stories to American publications, it was understood by all concerned that they were selling only First North American Serial Rights which allowed the newspaper or magazine to publish the story in print one time. For freelance authors, retention of all other copyrights is crucial to their economic survival because a significant additional source of income comes from their ability to sell secondary rights such as syndication, translations, anthologies, and so forth, to other publications.
With the advent of electronic media including databases like Nexis, publishers such as Time/Warner and the Times/Mirror Company, the parent companies of Time and Newsday, have been selling freelance-authored material to electronic databases such as Nexis/Lexis without any additional payment or purchase of electronic rights from the original authors. They claim, without justification, that by purchasing First North American Serial Rights they automatically gain electronic republication rights. Tasini et al v. The New York Times et al established that they are violating the copyrights of writers."
Now that's what I call a happy ending. Oh yes, there was a financial settlement involved. Guess how much?