Awhile back, I published a post on copyrights for bloggers. It’s time to take another look at the subject in the wake of a ruling from U.S. Circuit Judge John M. Walker Jr. of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
“In Re: Literary Words in Electronic Databases Copyright Litigation” was a copyright infringement suit brought over 10 years ago by freelance writers against various electronic databases, including Lexis/Nexis, West Publishing, Dow Jones, The New York Times, Knight Ridder and others. It alleged that freelancers’ works were used without permission.
Judge Walker’s most recent ruling failed to approve a proposed class action settlement because of “inherent conflicts between different parts of the class.” Specifically, the judge said that the status of the articles’ copyright registrations determined the ultimate settlement.
The ruling divided copyrights into three categories:
- Articles registered before the infringement, eligible for larger settlement payouts.
- Articles registered after the infringement, eligible for small settlement payouts.
- Articles that haven’t yet been registered, ineligible for any settlement payout.
What does that mean to bloggers and other copyright holders? Several things, but one of the major implications is that in the future, when a group of copyright holders want to join together in a class action lawsuit, the class may not be “certified” (that is, allowed to sue as a group) unless all the members of a particular class fall into the same category. Those with copyrights registered before an infringement would need to be represented by one attorney, those without registered copyrights would need to be registered by another, and those who registered their copyrights after the infringement by a third.
I’m not a lawyer, but it seems to me that it also argues that we need to go ahead and register our copyrights as opposed to trusting in the simple “Copyright” notice. And that argues for figuring out the budget for copyright registrations sooner, rather than later.
Guess it’s time to have a chat about this blog with my IP attorney. My practice for years has been to claim my copyrights up front, but not register them until I’m about to go to contract on a sale.