NWU supports Canadian writers

From: Irvin Muchnick <irvmuch[_at_]netcom.com>
Date: Thu, 12 Sep 1996 14:18:42 -0700 (PDT)

        NATIONAL WRITERS UNION SUPPORTS LAWSUIT
                 BY CANADIAN WRITERS

The National Writers Union (NWU) has announced its support of a class-action lawsuit by Canadian freelance writers against the Thomson Corporation and its Information Access Company (IAC) subsidiary.  

In a letter to the Periodical Writers Association of Canada (PWAC), one of the Canadian writers' organizations backing the suit, NWU vice president for external organizing Philip Mattera told PWAC president Mark Zuehlke, "The problem of copyright infringement in new technologies, and of major publishers failing to pay writers their fair share of the revenues from digital media, is a global one and needs to be attacked across national borders with an aggressive mix of litigation, organizing and new forms of licensing. We fully support our fellow writers north of our border who are taking a firm stand on this issue."  

The Canadian lawsuit, which names author Heather Robertson as the lead plaintiff, seeks $100 million in damages from Toronto-based Thomson, owner of the Toronto Globe and Mail and many other media properties. IAC, based in Foster City, California, supplies commercial full-text magazine and newspaper article databases via Nexis, CompuServe, Dow Jones News Retrieval, Dialog and many restricted online libraries.  

In his letter, Mattera noted that a decision was expected later this year in *Tasini et al. v. The New York Times et al.*, a suit filed in December 1993 by a group of NWU members, led by president Jonathan Tasini. "As we await the ruling in the *Tasini* case, we are happy to see this parallel action in Canada," Mattera said. "And we are especially happy that Canadian writers are alert to the danger of new all-rights and work-for-hire contracts, which strip freelancers of rights they have historically owned and threaten the ability of independent writers and artists to make a living in the 21st century."  

In another approach to the problem, the NWU in 1994 launched its Operation Magazine Index campaign, targeting IAC. As a result of that campaign, another major database company -- the CARL Corporation's UnCover, now owned by Knight-Ridder, Inc. -- entered into negotiations with the NWU for the formation of a collective-licensing agency, Publication Rights Clearinghouse (PRC). The agency this year began operating the first transaction-based writers' royalty system in cyberspace. PWAC is an associate sponsor of PRC.  

The National Writers Union, an affiliate of United Auto Workers, represents 4,500 freelance writers in all genres. For more information about the NWU or PRC, visit the NWU's site on the World Wide Web: <http://www.nwu.org/nwu/>.  

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Received on Thu Sep 12 1996 - 21:21:49 GMT

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