The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the copyright case reported in the January 2008 issue of Outdoors Unlimited. The case was then called In re Literary Works in Electronic Databases Copyright Litigation. Watch for developments under the new name of the case, Reed Elsevier, Inc., v. Muchnick. The Supreme Court may decide in this case whether the 1976 Copyright Act provision granting ownership of copyrights to creators such as authors has any real force in the absence of registration with the U.S. Copyright Office. This is the first time since the 2001 Tasini v. New York Times case that the Supreme Court will address the rights of freelancers. At stake is whether to reinstate a class action settlement producing perhaps $18 million for freelancers as payment for infringements such as those found in Tasini, when freelance material was sold through electronic databases such as Lexis/Nexis. The down side is that if the settlement is reinstated, very little will go to holders of unregistered copyrights. Of interest is that the infringers are the ones seeking reinstatement of the settlement (they want to pay money and be rid of these claims), and those who sought to throw it out are holders of unregistered copyrights that were infringed.
– Bill Powell, OWAA legal counsel