Attention Freelance Writers: Protect Your Rights

by Staff Writer on April 29, 2005

A lawsuit was filed this week to vacate the preliminary approval of a $10-to-$18-million settlement in a landmark lawsuit over unauthorized reuse of authors’ previously published newspaper and magazine articles. The settlement, announced last month by three authors’ organizations, 13 electronic database companies and 36 participating publishers, would limit the rights of thousands of free-lancers across America

Attorney Charles D. Chalmers of Mill Valley, California, argued that the settlement should be set aside because there is good reason to believe that the size of the authors’ restitution fund is too small, the provisions for notifying affected writers are inadequate, and the release of future claims against publishers is both vague and too broad.

Chalmers told the court that a requirement for any potential settlement objectors to appear at a July hearing in New York would deny them due process in view of the fact that settlement claims are set as low as $5 and involve unknown thousands of writers throughout the world. It is also possible, under the preliminarily approved settlement, that a substantial segment of the class would receive nothing in return for giving up all rights for future uses of their works.

Chalmers’ brief in support of the motion to vacate the preliminary settlement, with exhibits, can be viewed at

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