Supreme Court To Revisit Tasini Case

Posted on 3/9/2009 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

In Tasini v. New York Times, the 2001 Supreme Court decision sided with Jonathan Tasini and other freelance writers, who said that newspapers and magazines had committed copyright infringement by making previously written freelancer contributions available in electronic databases without additional compensation.

After extensive negotiations, the defendants—The New York Times, Time magazine and other publishers—agreed to pay $18 million for a global settlement of all claims in four class actions to two groups of authors: those who had registered copyrights to their works and those who had not. The case involved roughly 115,000 articles by some 27,000 writers, the majority of whom had not registered copyrights to such works.

Federal copyright law requires that, in order to initiate a copyright infringement suit, the works must be registered. As a result, in November 2007, a divided three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York declined to approve the settlement. The court said it did not have jurisdiction over the claims of those who had not registered their copyrights.

The Supreme Court must now decide whether the Appeals Court may approve a global class action that includes claims from those who have not registered their copyrights. Not only the writers, but also the publishers want the Supreme Court to act. The publishers are concerned the lack of a comprehensive settlement may required deleting a large number of works from digital archives as a protection against further litigation.

Notably, Jerry Greenberg v. National Geographic was recently concluded with the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear Greenberg’s appeal—a decision based, to a large extent, on the legal precedent the Tasini case.

The Tasini case was filed in 1993 and has been workings its way through the legal system since. The real question here is whether the copyright law provides any real protection for creators and copyright owners, or if its purpose is simply to provide full-time employment for lawyers.

Copyright © 2009 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to:  


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