Supreme Court Finally Grants Copyright Case
The Supreme Court finally granted review in Reed Elsevier v. Muchnik, a dispute over the long-negotiated settlement between freelance writers and database and news media publishers over copyright compensation for reproduction of their works.
The settlement followed the 2001 ruling in New York Times v. Tasini
where the high court vindicated freelancers’ right to compensation. Many class-action lawsuits followed, resulting in a settlement in 2005 that created a $18 million fund to be be distributed to freelancers.
A group of objecting authors challenged the settlement, and in 2007, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit voided the challenge on jurisdictional grounds. The appeals court stated that it did not have jurisdiction over assertions on copyright infringement for works that had not been registered with the copyright office. Because most freelance works are not formally copyrighted, the ruling dampened hopes of a settlement ever being reached.
However, the high court, in granting review, re-worded the question presented to encompass only whether 17 U.S.C. 411 (a)
restricts “the subject matter jurisdiction of the federal courts over copyright infringement actions.” The case will be argued in the fall.