A Federal Appeals Court Voids Agreement for Back Pay
The New York Times reported on November 20, 2007 that a federal appeals court had thrown out an agreement between freelance writers and publishers. The publishers agreed to pay damages for putting early articles on the web without first securing the rights. (For the whole article, visit the New York Times: Appeals Court Voids Agreement to Pay Freelancers for Work Published on the Web.)
Writers and Electronic Copyrights
In any writers’ class or lecture I’ve ever taught or attended that brings up the web, this question is asked: “Is my work copyrighted if I put it on the web?” In 2001, the US Supreme Court said that reprinting your newspaper or magazine articles on the web without permission violated copyright law. So yes the same copyright laws that are there for print also apply to the web. We all gave a little cheer.
But like any copyright, in order for it to be binding, you have to actively enforce it. Doing so in print has always seemed a little easier. Granted, it was harder to find the infringements, but it was also harder to duplicate your work for distribution. On the web, your work is more easily found, copied and distributed.
Does this mean you should keep your work off of the web?
Absolutely not, even if it were possible. Most publications have changed their purchasing contracts for freelancers to include electronic rights, so your work is going to get out. What you need to do is adjust your thinking a bit and plan how to use the vastness of the web to your advantage. Certainly look for places where your work has been used and not attributed to you and make sure you are given proper credit. Then use that credit to build a platform from which to further your career.
Originally posted on my WordPress Blog, December 2, 2007.