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Monday, January 21, 2002
Newspaper Archives:
Under Supreme Court Attack!
By Howard Hobbs Ph.D. President
Valley Press Media Network

    WASHINGTON - Last June, the U.S. Supreme Court changed they way U.S. newspapers conduct the information business, forever. The Court ruled that newspaper publishers don't own the rights to the most widely read online columns by freelance writers.
     The predictable consequence of this ruling by the high court, is that newspaper publishers are systematically destroying all freelance cvolumn material
from theirn online search-endines and databases files.
     The newspaper articles, commentary, and op-ed pieces have provided writers and researchers with the single most important source of social and economic opinion data relied upon for interprtetation of the social and political history of both distant past and recent local and wordl wide human events.
     Bruce P. Keller Esq. represents newspaper publishers in the Supreme Court case (Tasini ). He told reporters, "...By the 1990s, most publishers had added online-publication rights to their freelance contracts. But as for the articles from the late '70s, '80s, and early '90s, no one, even among publishers, is yet certain how much is coming down and for how long."
In the Tasini suit, freelance writers said that, under the copyright law of 1978, traditional publishers did not have the right to republish freelance work in online databases. That would have been an infringement because it significantly altered the original work, and newspapers which engaged in that practice owed the them writers money.
     But owners of the newspaper publications, claim that producing and selling online versions of thre newspaper which included such content did infringe. The American Library Association and the Association of Research Libraries filed amici briefs in support of the writers. Another group of historians -- including Gordon S. Wood from Brown University and Jack N. Rakove from Stanford, along with Mr. Kennedy and Mr. McCollough -- filed a brief in support of the publishers, fearing that significant access to newspaper files would be lost if the writers won the case. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the writers
    Within hours of the Court's ruling appearance on the Internet, the Authors Guild filed a lawsuit against The New York Times, alleging a cause of action for infringement.
    In the meanwhile, The National Geographic Society is struggling with infringement actions alleging infringement by its publication of a complete CD-ROM archive of the magazine's publications covering the past 114 years.each side in that case says that the Supreme Court's ruling supports its claim.
    Worse still, its has just been leaned that the National Writers Union has filed new litigation naming the NY Times, alleging tthe NY Times has been coercing freelance writers into signing away their rights to online articles.
    Some news media and database companies have confirmed that news articles are being redacted ferom their databases.The Arizona Republic, and many others say that according to company policy, entire newspaper files are being pulled offline and reviewed.
     Toby Usnik, a spokesman for The New York Times, told reporters that since the Supreme Court ruling, in June, the newspaper has pulled 100,000 articles offline; however, 15,000 of those articles have since been restored after the paper struck deals with writers.

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